DENVER — The Colorado women's lacrosse team secured a dramatic 11-10 victory at the University of Denver on Friday after the Pioneers stormed back late to almost steal a win at home. It was the Buffaloes' first win against DU in program history.

"Obviously, we wish it wasn't dramatic," CU head coach Ann Elliott said. "We've got to learn how to finish games in a controlled manner. When we're winning those draw controls at the end, we should be in control. Denver did a great job and fought until the end, and they're a great team.

"For us it's a big win, it's a conference win. Every conference (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) win is a big win whether it's the first one or the last one."

Junior attack Cali Castagnola made her mark on the game early as she scored the quickest pair of goals by one player in school history, 11 seconds apart. She added her name to the record books once more just three minutes later as she recorded the fastest hat trick in the team's short three years in just five minutes and 15 seconds.

"It felt really good to come out strong, especially with one of our biggest games against Denver," Castagnola said. "When we come out strong, it really sets the pace of the game. It was a really fast game, and it was shown through the first five minutes."

Sophomore midfielder Darby Kiernan added a hat trick of her own, scoring two goals in the first half and another late in the second.


Junior goalie Paige Soenksen also contributed six saves to the Buffaloes' victory.

After the Buffaloes took an 11-8 lead with three minutes remaining, Denver scored two quick goals, the last with 59.7 seconds on the clock. Although the Pioneers held possession for much of the final minute, stellar defense from the Buffaloes ended their hopes of sending the game into overtime.

Colorado’s Darby Kieran, left, celebrates a goal with teammates on Friday.
Colorado's Darby Kieran, left, celebrates a goal with teammates on Friday. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

Throughout much of the first half, the Buffaloes commanded the pace of the game on offense and defense as they scored the first four goals of the match, three of which were scored by Castagnola. But with 16 minutes remaining, the Pioneers began to fight back and scored four goals of their own in an 11-minute period.

"Cali stepped up today in the beginning and was able to finish her shots, and we needed that. I think what that shows, though, is that it's not about the first five minutes. It's about the 60 minutes, and you've got to finish every minute strong and compete in that time," Elliott said.

But despite Denver's surge, Colorado never allowed it to take a lead throughout the first 30 minutes of play. By halftime, the score was 9-6 in the Buffaloes' favor with three goals from Castagnola and two goals each from freshman midfielder Sophia Castillo and Kiernan.

The pace of the game slowed significantly in the second half. Denver recorded its first goal 10 minutes in, but Colorado wasn't able to respond until seven minutes remained in the game. From then on, the teams switched off scoring before the clock struck zero, and Colorado walked away with its first victory of the season.

"Winning this game builds a lot of confidence for us as a team as a whole. Winning the first game is super important, and going into the next one we'll just have that much more confidence as a team," Kiernan said.

The Buffs next play at Fresno State on Feb. 21 in a nonconference matchup.

CU 11, Denver 10

Halftime score: CU 9, DU 6.

CU scoring (goals-assists): Castagnola 3-1, Cox 0-1, Lautman 1-0, Castillo 2-0, Kiernan 3-1, Moore 0-3, Brown 0-1, Stinson 2-0, Totals: 11-7.

DU scoring (goals-assists): McKinnon 4-0, Reese 2-1, Lanuza 1-2, Feiss 0-1, Voorhees 0-1, Kasun 2-0, White 1-0, Derry 0-1. Totals: 10-6.

Goalies (saves-goals against): CU, Soenksen 6-10. DU, Stevenson, 6-11.

Alissa Noe: ,