Colorado senior Paige Soenksen can remember playing in her very first lacrosse game.
As a sixth grader, she made the decision to play goalie because one of her older siblings, who also played lacrosse, shared with her that "in high school lacrosse, the players have to wear skirts as part of their uniform, but the goalie gets to wear shorts."
"That seemed more my style," Soenksen said.
So, logically, Soenksen chose to play goalie. She even remembers making her very first save which was actually a shot straight to the face. Somehow, this was the moment she fell in love with the sport of lacrosse.
About a decade later Soenksen still applies that same grit and passion to make saves as the goalie for the Colorado lacrosse team.
"Yes, you're at risk to get hit, but also if you get hit, that's a save, so there's kind of both sides to that," Soenksen said. "I'll take that bruise if it means it's not a goal."
Soenksen has played an instrumental role in Colorado's strong 4-0 start to the season. This record includes beating Northwestern and Massachusetts, two top-20 ranked teams. For the first time in program history CU has broken the rankings, landing at No. 9 in the NCAA inside lacrosse poll.
Soenksen also reached an individual milestone in the Northwestern game — recording a career-high 19 saves.
Though excited about the numbers and achievements, Soenksen also feels that they don't always tell the whole story.
"We feel very happy and proud about it obviously, but it's also just a number," Soenksen said. "We know what we are capable of achieving, and what we can accomplish as a team, and I don't necessarily think attaching a number to that has a huge impact on what we can do."
Still, these numbers speak volumes for a Division I program that is only in its fourth year. Soenksen and her inaugural class have come a long way since overcoming the growing pains associated with a new program.
"We came in not having any older kids above us, so we had no idea what to expect," Soenksen said. "I'm pretty sure everyone was overwhelmed with the amount of work of college, in addition to lacrosse and conditioning. So I think there's a lot to say for us all growing together and going through these four years and figuring it out."
But for every challenge related to building the program came an opportunity to contribute to the future of CU lacrosse which was a significant reason Soenksen decided to come play for Colorado.
"Paige is part of our first class and that class on the whole has done an incredible job building the foundation of this program, and building the culture of this program too, which I think we will be able to build on for a long time," CU lacrosse coach Ann Elliot said. "I think Paige is a great example of the culture we want for our program, which is a kid that works hard on and off the field."
For Soeknsen and many of her teammates, this is their last chance to make a statement for CU lacrosse, creating a sense of urgency among the team. However, Elliot recognizes the importance of staying focused amidst an undefeated start.
"I think we are off to a strong start, but it's very easy to go backwards, so we're not really focused on anything outside of what we do every day in practice, and taking it one game at a time," Elliot said. "I think if this team does that, and if they can commit to getting better every day and to playing for each other, then there is a lot of potential, and it should be a fun year."
Soenksen and the rest of Colorado lacrosse will continue to tackle one game at a time as they will face Denver at Kittredge Field on Friday at 3 p.m.