CU women's lacrosse preview: Delaware
MATCHUP: No. 4 Colorado Buffaloes (10-0) at Delaware Blue Hens (5-3).
GAME TIME: Wednesday, 4 p.m. MDT, Delaware Stadium.
BROADCAST: Live stream available at bluehens.com/liveEvents
LEADERS: Colorado — Goals: A Darby Kiernan, Jr., 28; Assists: Kiernan, 14; Points: Kiernan, 42; Goalie: Paige Soenksen, Sr., 7.12 goals-against average, .568 save percentage. Delaware — Goals: M Becky Gohsler, Jr., 17; Assists: A Jamie Schwartz, Sr., and A Sydney Rausa, Fr., 8; Points: Gohsler, 22; Goalie — Taylor Carpentier, Jr., 8.04 goals-against average, .410 save percentage.
NOTABLE: The Buffs have never played Delaware...CU ranks first nationally in scoring defense (6.8) and third in scoring offense (16.5) despite not having a single player ranked among the top 30 individual goal-scorers in the country...CU has played only once on the road since Feb. 19, notching a win at No. 6 Penn State on March 12...Kiernan has scored at least two goals in nine of 10 games this season. Kiernan also ranks third in the nation with 7.6 draw controls per game...Though she recently missed two games due to injury, CU's Johnna Fusco has recorded at least four goals in four of the past five games in which she has played. Fusco matched a career-best and single-game CU record with five goals in Saturday's home win against Fresno State.
There are more than a few reasons why Paige Soenksen presents such a foreboding presence for teams attempting to solve the stingy defense of the Colorado women's lacrosse team.
Part of the senior class that has built CU from a mere vision into the No. 4-ranked program in the nation, Soenksen's career-best save percentage of .568 ranks fourth in the nation. And with a quick and experienced defense in front of her making life miserable for opposing attackers, Soenksen also ranks second in the nation with a 7.12 goals-against average.
As if being the anchor of one of the top defenses in the country wasn't enough, Soenksen continues to build on a habit of sparking quick CU offensive transitions with her pinpoint passes. It's a trait that could make the difference when the Buffaloes visit nationally-ranked Stony Brook on Friday following Wednesday's nonconference battle at Delaware.
"In general as a goalie, you always try to get a quick clear going and get the ball out quick just for that reason," Soenksen said. "I think it's something we've all learned to do. In high school that was definitely something I had to work on, and I think I've developed that. I think it's something we've done pretty well this year for the most part, starting the transition from the goalie to the defenders and have that beautiful pass-pass-pass-shot."
A save from Soenksen typically is followed by an instantaneous outlet pass, often to speedy defender Sarah Brown. In a perfect scenario that plays out frequently for the undefeated Buffs, CU often launches shots at opposing goalies just seconds after the opposition did the same to Soenksen.
"I think it's just part of our mentality with transition," said coach Ann Elliott, whose club is ranked fourth in all three national polls. "Obviously to start that off you have to make a big save or a big play, but then we try to get the ball out as quickly as possible. Our defenders are fast. They're athletic. So they're able to move the ball down the field, usually pretty quickly.
"Speed has always been one of our strengths. Even when skill wasn't our strength, we were able to push the ball just using our feet and our speed. That's a huge mentality of ours."
The Buffs' challenge on Wednesday will be to not look past Delaware, given Friday's showdown at Stony Brook offers a chance for CU to pick up its fifth win against a ranked foe this season. With only one home game remaining, the Buffs' quest for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season championship won't succeed without getting results on the road. After playing six of their past seven games at home, this week will provide a solid test for a schedule that culminates with four consecutive MPSF road games.
"We haven't talked about Stony Brook and we probably won't talk about Stony Brook until we get our job done with Delaware. That's our first priority," CU junior Katie Macleay said. "We do have a lot of road games coming up but I think we have a good mentality when we do travel. We know what our job is when we go to these places."