After finishing the nonconference portion of its season 7-2 with two conference games already under its belt, the University of Colorado lacrosse team is looking ahead to a tough stretch of conference play that begins Friday at UC Davis.
"I think we're excited to head back into the second stretch of our conference play and compete against the great teams in our conference," head coach Ann Elliott said. "Hopefully, our nonconference play and our travel has prepared us.
"I think that's the biggest part of the first half of the season: you want to be prepared going into this end stretch on all levels — offensively, defensively, mentally prepared. And I think we are, but we have a lot of work to do and we have a lot of great teams ahead of us that we have to play and we're looking forward to the challenge."
So far this season, the Buffaloes' only losses have come at the hands of two teams both ranked No. 7 in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association poll at the time of their meetings: Notre Dame and Northwestern.
And although the Notre Dame loss was a bit of a beatdown, the Buffaloes kept it close with Northwestern until the very end, when the Wildcats scored four goals in the final five minutes to win 11-6.
"It shows that we have the ability to compete with the top teams in the country," junior goalie Paige Soenksen said of the team's loss to Northwestern. "In that game, in particular, there was a solid 20-minute stretch where we had the ball, we had possession of it and kind of controlled the pace of the game."
At the beginning of the season, the Buffaloes got an early taste of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation when they visited Denver and Fresno State, collecting a pair of wins.
"We have two conference games under our belt, but I think a big part of this big push into the last part of our season is playing the best teams that we play out of conference," Soenksen said. "I think you need to play the best teams in the nation to compete with them and build your program, so I think that definitely helped us."
This weekend, the Buffs head to California to take on UC Davis at 5 p.m. Friday, then face No. 12 Stanford at 1 p.m. Sunday. In previous years, the Buffaloes haven't had much luck against Stanford, which means Sunday's game could define the tone of the rest of their season.
"Stanford's a great team," Elliott said. "They've been having a great season across the board, they have a lot of weapons, they're athletic and they're fast. Obviously, we've had challenges in the past against them, especially in conference play.
"We know it takes everything we have to go out there and compete, and that's what it's going to take in every game from here on out in the conference. Every game is as important as the next and we really have to focus on one game at a time."
Alissa Noe: email@example.com