During the fall lacrosse season, Julia Sarcona was sidelined with a rather significant ankle injury.
While she was unable to compete with the Buffaloes, Sarcona was determined to make certain her bothersome ankle didn't wreck her upcoming senior season. To make that happen, Sarcona often was stationed at a lonesome corner of the Kittredge Field while her teammates practiced, diligently sweating through rehabilitation exercises with an eye on being 100 percent for the 2018 spring season, her last in a Buffaloes uniform.
It is a vision CU coach Ann Elliott clung to Monday as the university announced Sarcona died in a one car accident Saturday morning on Boulder Canyon Road west of Boulder. She was 21. A native of Northport, N.Y., Sarcona was set to graduate this spring with a degree in public relations and interned with CU's sports information department last summer.
According to the Colorado State Patrol, alcohol and drugs are not suspected causes, but excessive speed is being investigated.
"She was there every day, working hard and rehabbing with such a smile on her face," Elliott said. "She still was such an integral part of everything we were doing in the fall. I think that showed her leadership as a senior, and we definitely looked to her to lead. I think she was excited about this team and her senior year, but I think she was excited about everything she was doing.
"I look back on a lot of things with Julia, and academics definitely stand out. Julia has loved the program she's been in and really was taking ownership over it. That's something I think I'll always remember with her as well, just how passionate she was about school and her major and graduation."
Sarcona was part of Elliott's second recruiting class for what was a brand new program at CU, and the Buffs' coach distinctly remembers the first time she attended one of Sarcona's games alongside former assistant Hannah Nielsen. Elliott was already aware of Sarcona's pedigree, as her older sister Nina formerly was a standout attacker at UMass. The Buffs also eventually landed one of Sarcona's teammates that day in current CU senior Carly Cox.
"At that time we were really trying to work hard get great players out here, and Julia's older sister played at UMass, so I knew of the Sarconas and their family," Elliott said. "We got to watch Julia play in the summer and I remember (Nielsen) talking about Julia and Carly, and we were really excited about them. We hadn't recruited much at that point and we were able to get Julia out to camp and sit down with her family.
"I remember how just at ease it was being with them. They're just such loving people and kind. I just remember her dad smiling walking around Boulder, and he loved coming out here. It was a long way from home for her, but we felt quite lucky getting Julia to come out here and be part of our program."
Sarcona played in 11 games over three seasons, collecting two goals and two assists. The first official day of practice for women's lacrosse is Saturday, but Elliott said the team will be traveling to Philadelphia on Thursday for the funeral services and is not scheduled to return until Sunday. Beyond that, Elliott said there is no plan for when exactly the Buffs will hit the field to begin preparations for their Feb. 9 season-opener against Michigan in Jacksonville, Fla.
For the time being, dealing with the shock and grief from the loss of Sarcona is the Buffs' only priority.
"She was an incredible, caring person from an incredible family," Elliott said. "For us, just thinking about Julia is thinking about her humor. Just such a funny kid and such a joy to be around. She had this humor that was very witty and would come out of nowhere. She made everyone around her smile and laugh."
Teammates also describe a fearless, witty young woman who never was shy about going toe-to-toe with Cox in trading funny movie quotes. Last summer, when Sarcona and senior defender Kelsie Garrison decided to adopt a dog, Garrison described a scene when the pup got away and proceeded to charge into a neighboring church in the middle of Sunday morning services.
Sarcona charged in after, yelling the dog's name and running through the pews much to the shock of the congregation. "That was just so Julia," recalled Garrison.
"She just made everything fun," Cox said. "She was always there with a quick, witty comment, or she'd throw a movie quote out there. I'm just going to miss her humor. She just brought a lot of love to everybody's life."