Overshadowed somewhat in the glow of another stellar University of Colorado soccer victory on Thursday was the return from injury by junior Joss Orejel.
Orejel started the first 12 games of the season at left outside defender but suffered a knee injury during a win at Arizona State on Oct. 2. She missed five games before coming off the bench during Thursday's 1-0 win against No. 9 UCLA.
However, coach Danny Sanchez deployed Orejel as a defensive midfielder, preferring to keep intact the back line of Erin Greening, Alex Vidger, Mikaela Kraus, and Kelsey Aaknes that has meshed well during the No. 22-ranked Buffs' run of 12 wins in 13 games.
When healthy, Orejel takes a majority of CU's corner kicks and free kicks.
"She's a good player and we want to get her on the field," Sanchez said. "But we have some good rhythm going in the back. She can play anywhere on the field. She stepped in the midfield winning some balls for us and making some passes."
Senior defender Kahlia Hogg is likely to remained sidelined for Sunday's showdown at Prentup Field against No. 4 USC (noon, Pac-12 Networks), but the Buffs remain hopeful Hogg can return before an all-but-certain NCAA Tournament date in two weeks. Hogg suffered an injury Oct. 6 against Oregon and has missed the past five games.
CU enters Sunday's battle with 24 points, sitting in a tie with Stanford atop the Pac-12 Conference with two games remaining. The Buffs complete the regular season Friday against Utah. Stanford, ranked third in the nation, plays at Arizona State Sunday night and at No. 18 Cal on Friday.