Colorado decided to put this one to rest in a hurry.
The CU women's lacrosse team abruptly turned a close match into a comfortable rout Friday afternoon, ambushing Oregon at the outset of the second half to pull away for a 16-6 win in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament at Prentup Field.
Though Sunday will mark the Pac-12's first league championship game, it will be the second consecutive conference championship match for the top-seeded Buffaloes, who will try to back their regular-season title with a league tournament title against second-seeded Stanford at noon.
CU lost to USC last year in the final of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Stanford advanced to Sunday's title match with a thrilling 15-14 win against USC in the second semifinal Friday.
"A little bit of a slow start just on some little things, but overall I thought we came out strong for the most part. A very strong second half," CU head coach Ann Elliott said. "We knew it was going to be a tough battle. Oregon has given us a tough battle the last few times. I thought we did a good job adjusting from last weekend, and we're excited to play in the championship game on Sunday."
CU dominated Oregon in a 19-9 win just a week earlier in the regular-season finale, but the Buffs led just 5-3 after a surprisingly slow-paced first half on Friday. That changed almost immediately after the break, with CU scoring the first five goals of the second half within the period's first six minutes. The first three of those goals occurred in a span of 1 minute, 21 seconds, and by the time junior Sophia Castillo capped the five-goal opening salvo the Buffs had turned that narrow 5-3 edge at the break into a comfortable 10-3 advantage.
It was a balanced effort for a CU offense that has leaned heavily recently on leading scorer Darby Kiernan, who scored 13 goals in the previous two games and shared the team lead Friday with three goals. Junior Sophia Castillo also scored three goals and added three assists to finish with a career-high six points.
Redshirt sophomore Blair Sisk had scored only five goals all season but scored twice against Oregon, including one during the Buffs' 5-0 burst to start the second half. Sophomore Jen Mistretta also made a valuable contribution, finishing with a career-best three points on a goal and two assists.
"Our team is about playing seven people on offense, and everyone being a threat and doing their role," Elliott said. "We worked on that all week too — people stepping up and making plays. Obviously every game is a little bit different, and the defenses we face and the opportunities we get are always different. I think today, the way they were playing defense led a lot of other people to have good opportunities. It's great to see them finishing those and really stepping up to take advantage of them."
The Buffs improved to 8-0 all-time against the Ducks, and they will face a Stanford team for the championship on Sunday they swept during the regular season, though both games were close. CU won 18-16 at home on March 9 after rallying from a 12-6 halftime deficit, then defeated the Cardinal in overtime 11-10 on the road on April 13.
"I think having experience is always a positive," Kiernan said. "We definitely want to go farther this year and we definitely want to win the championship on Sunday. We just have to focus on Sunday and the game after that."
Colorado 16, Oregon 6
At Prentup FieldOregon (9-9) 3 3 — 6
Colorado (13-4) 5 11 — 16
Goals — Oregon: Zubillaga 2, Hesketh 2, Williams, Gattie; Colorado: Kiernan 3, Castillo 3, Stinson 2, Cox 2, Nemirov 2, Sisk 2, Mistretta, Collawn.
Assists — Oregon: Cukar 2, Williams 2; Colorado: Castillo 3, Mistretta 3, Stinson 2.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Oregon Read (60-16-17); Colorado: Lisella (60-6-12).