In the end, the Colorado women's lacrosse team didn't exactly slow down the nation's top-scoring offense in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Instead, the Buffaloes decided to fight firepower with their own firepower. Led by senior Darby Kiernan, the Buffaloes put together one of the top offensive performances in the program's five-year history to post its first victory in the NCAA tourney, a 23-18 decision against Jacksonville in Gainesville, Fla.
The Buffs advance to Sunday's Sweet 16, where they will meet host Florida with a berth in the quarterfinals on the line. CU suffered a 16-9 loss at Florida on Feb. 11 in the second match of the season.
CU's 23 goals matched the second-most in a game by the Buffs, a mark eclipsed only by the 24 goals CU scored at St. Mary's last year. Kiernan equaled a team record she shared with teammate Miranda Stinson by scoring seven goals, and her 12 overall points also broke her own team record of 10 set last month at Cal.
"For our team in general offensively, we're trying to work seven people down there and get different opportunities and looks, and we faced a lot of different looks on defense today," CU coach Ann Elliott said. "I thought Darby did a great job of competing and also finishing the opportunities she got. She's playing well right now and I think the team is playing well offensively. That's exciting."
Kiernan found Jen Mistretta for the game's opening goal just 44 seconds after the opening draw, and from there CU's offense rolled. Five goals within the first five and a half minutes of the match gave the Buffs a 5-1 lead, which they built to 14-5 with less than nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Jacksonville entered the NCAA Tournament leading the nation in scoring offense with an average of 18.47 goals per game, and while the Buffs never trailed, the Dolphins' explosive offense managed to keep things interesting. Jacksonville scored five consecutive goals to get within 14-10 late in the first half, but a Kiernan goal with one second left gave CU a 15-10 lead at the break.
Jacksonville got within 18-15 with 18:39 remaining, but Mistretta scored two goals in a 5-0 CU run that put the game away. Mistretta, a sophomore, had never scored more than one goal in a game but finished with a career-high four. Senior Miranda Stinson recorded four goals and two assists.
"I thought we could be successful at both ends of the field, but obviously we struggled today in making stops and Jacksonville did a great job at capitalizing on opportunities," Elliott said. "We just didn't do the little things. We didn't play good team defense. We weren't really playing defense at all. Offensively, I thought we did a good job of having seven people working down there."
Sunday's Sweet 16 match begins at 10 a.m.
Colorado 23, Jacksonville 18
At Dizney StadiumJacksonville (16-4)10 8 — 18
Goals — Jacksonville: Elms 4, Stevens 4, Miller 3, Hiron 3, Arnold 2, Alvarez, McDonough; Colorado: Kiernan 7, Stinson 4, Mistretta 4, Nemirov 3, Castillo 3, Grozier, Cox.
Assists — Jacksonville: Hiron 4, Alvarez 2; Colorado: Kiernan 5, Stinson 2, Nemirov, Castillo, Garrison.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Jacksonville: Brunoforte (30-10-7), Poelma (30-13-4); Colorado: Lisella (60-18-7).