CU lacrosse preview: Florida
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (14-5) at Florida Gators (16-3) in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament.
GAME TIME: Sunday, 10 a.m. MDT, Dizney Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
BROADCAST: Live stream available at University of Florida YouTube channel.
LEADERS: Colorado — Goals: Darby Kiernan 68; Assists: Kiernan 30; Points: Kiernan 98; Goalie: Julia Lisella, 9.11 goals-against average, .507 save percentage. Florida — Goals: Lindsey Ronbeck 61; Assists: Shannon Kavanagh 25; Points: Ronbeck and Shayna Pirreca, 76; Goalie: Haley Hicklen 10.06 goals-against average, .486 save percentage.
NOTES: On Friday, four CU players earned first team All-Region honors from the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Association: Kiernan, Lisella, Sarah Brown, and Miranda Stinson. It is the third honor for Brown and the second apiece for Stinson and Kiernan...In the Buffs' 16-9 loss at Florida on Feb. 11, Kiernan was held to just one goal and no assists, the only time this season she has been held to one point...Sophomore Jen Mistretta enjoyed a breakout game for the Buffs in the first-round win against Jacksonville. Mistretta had posted just six goals in 35 career games before scoring four goals against the Dolphins...Ronbeck led Florida in that match with three goals and two assists...The winner will play either James Madison or Virginia in the quarterfinals.
The first one finally is safely out of the way. Yet the Colorado women's lacrosse team always has had its collective sights set on more.
On Friday, the Buffaloes claimed another impressive program-first by earning its first victory in the NCAA Tournament, a 23-18 decision against Jacksonville in an offensive showcase in Gainesville, Florida.
Now in its fifth year of existence, the Buffs already can already claim two NCAA tourney berths, consecutive berths in league championship matches, the first Pac-12 Conference regular season title, and, now, an NCAA tourney win to their relatively young resume. Against Florida on Sunday the Buffs will look to add another chapter to the program's short history, as the teams collide in the Sweet 16 with a berth in the national quarterfinals on the line.
"It's exciting to have an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament," CU coach Ann Elliott said. "It's exciting to be able to get a win. It's exciting for this team to have at least two more days together. Obviously we're working for more than that. I don't think we're satisfied with how we played (against Jacksonville) but at the end of the day, at this point of the season you win and you move on. You have a short-term memory and we get ready for the next game. That's what we're going to do."
The Buffs also played at Florida on Feb. 11 in the second game of the season, suffering a 16-9 loss. CU's new schedule format in the first year of the Pac-12's women's lacrosse league offered plenty of chances for the Buffs to prepare for a repeat opponent this season. CU went 5-0 in the second half of the conference schedule, adding a third win against Oregon in the league tourney before falling to Stanford in the teams' third match of the year in the league title game.
The host Gators were one of six teams to receive first-round byes, and the Buffs are coming off an exciting but physically taxing first-round win. After allowing a season-most 18 goals against Jacksonville, Elliott is hopeful CU's defense will rebound in a match that might turn out to be the opposite of the offensive battle the Buffs survived in the first round.
Even after the defensive showing against Jacksonville, the Buffs remain 17th in the nation in scoring defense at 9.74 goals allowed per game. Florida ranks 15th at 9.63. Elliott said the Buffs would go through only a light walk-though on Saturday while concentrating heavily on video work and physical recovery.
"I think Florida is an amazing team," Elliott said. "In some ways they're similar to Jacksonville in terms of they go hard, they transition, they're aggressive, they dodge hard. We know it's a tough challenge for us. I think both ends of the field are really solid and they have seven players on each end that can play and can compete. They're tough to stop.
"We know it's a tough challenge for us. We'll start preparing (Friday) night for that and start resting up, because we know it's going to take everything we have. They're a lot better defensively than the first time we played them. They have strong one-on-one defenders that make you work for everything all over the field. So it's going to be a battle."