The University of Colorado women's lacrosse team has improved by leaps and bounds in just three seasons of existence.
Still, the Buffaloes have yet to learn how to beat Stanford at crunch time.
For the third consecutive year CU's run through the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament ended in the semifinals against the Cardinal, as the Buffs suffered what likely was a season-ending 11-6 defeat Friday night.
After a strong start the Buffs were undone by Stanford's defense and an untimely penalty late in the first half that led to a pair of man-up goals for the host Cardinal during a game-turning run.
CU began the week on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble with an RPI ranking of 30, yet the Buffs will keep their collective fingers crossed for a possible tourney berth when the field is announced on May 8. There are 13 at-large bids available for the 26-team tournament field.
"We knew if we won today we would have given us a better chance having a quality win on our record," head coach Ann Elliott said. "We definitely haven't done anything to count ourselves out, but it depends on the committee. The only thing that was in our control was tonight, and we didn't get it done."
The third-seeded Buffs started strong and held a 4-3 lead after a Marie Moore goal midway through the first half, but CU would go almost 42 minutes before scoring again. Stanford, meanwhile, reeled off seven consecutive goals to power its way into a championship game date against USC, which defeated the University of Denver in the first semifinal.
Stanford scored the final three goals of the first half to take a 6-4 lead at the break. The final two of those goals were scored while CU played a player down following a yellow card against Sarah Brown, and the Cardinal added the first four goals of the second half to pull away.
Five different players accounted for CU's six goals, with Katie Macleay leading the way with a pair of goals. Moore and Darby Kiernan each added a goal and an assist.
"I don't think it came down to the penalty. At that point we were playing well defensively and making stops," Elliott said. "We gave up too many second-chance opportunities and then we didn't execute on offense. And they're a good defensive team. If you can't score goals, you can't beat good teams. That's one thing we've got to work on in the future whenever we get that next opportunity."
Stanford 11, Colorado 6
At StanfordColorado (13-5) 4 2 — 6 Stanford (14-3) 6 5 — 11
Goals — Colorado: Macleay 2, Moore, Cox, Lautman, Kiernan; Stanford: Murray 3, Schoen 3, Myers 2, Cusick, Salemo, Nick.
Assists — Colorado: Moore, Fusco, Kiernan; Stanford: Cusick, Tesel, Murray, Salemo.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Colorado: Soenksen (60-11-6); Stanford: DaCar (60-6-7).