With the jersey of fallen teammate Julia Sarcona hanging on the Colorado sideline and her memory weighing heavy on their hearts, the Buffaloes opened the 2018 season with an emotional 20-10 win over the Michigan Wolverines on Friday night at Episcopal School in Jacksonville, Fla.
Junior Miranda Stinson led the way for the 17th-ranked Buffs, scoring a school-record seven goals, while senior Darby Kiernan tied a career-best five goals and dominated draws.
"It was our first game and a lot of emotions all around. I thought we came out pretty well," Colorado head coach Ann Elliott said. "We had a couple of tough stretches and we had people step up and make plays. For us it's always about seven people doing their jobs. I think when we did that, Darby [Kiernan] and Miranda [Stinson] were able to find and create a lot of great opportunities and we finished them."
The Buffs jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first nine minutes, but a Michigan goal interrupted CU's quick start at 18:56. CU answered with goals from Samantha Nemirov and Sadie Grozier, stretching the CU lead to 5-1 midway through the first half. Michigan responded with four goals of its own to tie the game at 5-5 with 11:57 remaining in the half. Goals from Stinson and Kiernan put the Buffs back up 7-5 with 7:47 to play in the half, but Michigan answered back. Then in the closing seconds of the half, a goal from Caroline Perry gave the Buffs a 9-7 halftime lead.
Michigan wasted no time in taking back the momentum, scoring a pair of goals in the first two minutes of the second half to even the score at 9-9 with 28:38 remaining in the game. The two teams exchanged goals, and the game was locked at 10 with 25:57 to play.
Stinson broke the tie at 24:06, giving the Buffs an 11-10 lead. From there, CU flipped a switch, and recorded nine more unanswered goals to finish the game on a 10-0 run.
"Again, there were a lot of emotions for us and controlling them and getting back to playing our game was huge. We made a little bit of a change on draws, Darby [Kiernan] started doing a great job of controlling them. That was a huge momentum swing for us," Elliott said. "I thought when we had the ball we were able to control the game for the most part. Defensively, we just tried to get back to the basics and do the little things. We got away from that a little bit and created some chances for Michigan and Michigan did a great job of finishing and playing hard in the stretch."
Making her second career start, goalie Sophia Gambitsky bounced back from a tough first half to make three saves during the Buffs second half run. Attacker Sophia Castillo led the team in caused turnovers, breaking up two Michigan clear attempts before crossing midfield. The Buffs also won the ground ball battle, 14-10, with Sarah Brown, Miranda Stinson and Devon Bayer each picking up two.
Colorado will head to Gainesville, Fla. for a matchup against No. 5 Florida at 10 a.m. Sunday. The game is Florida's season opener, while CU holds a 1-0 record.
CU never trailed in the game, despite Michigan tying the score three times. ... CU has won its last three season openers, and improves to 4-1 all-time ... CU improves to 3-0 all-time against Michigan.
Colorado 20, Michigan 10
At Jacksonville, Fla.Colorado (1-0) 9 11 — 20
Goals — CU: Stinson (7); Kiernan (5); Nemirov (3); Grozier (2); Cox (2); Perry (1); MICH: Grass (3); Pendino (3); Kirby (1); Brueckner (1); Stewart (1); Garrett (1).
Assists — CU: Cox (2), Stinson (1), Nemirov (1), Castillo (1); MICH: Klee (2).
Goalies (Min-Go als allowed-Saves) — CU: Gambitsky (60-10-5); MICH: Kothari (60-20-10).