CU women's lacrosse preview: Stanford
MATCHUP: Stanford Cardinal (7-3, 2-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) at No. 6 Colorado (11-0, 3-0).
GAME TIME: Friday, 3 p.m., Kittredge Field.
LEADERS: Stanford — Goals: A Elizabeth Cusick, Sr., 26; Assists: A Kelsey Murray, Sr., 15; Points: Murray, 40; Goalie: Allie DaCar, Jr., 10.8 goals-against average, .396 save percentage. Colorado — Goals: A Darby Kiernan, Jr., 31; Assists: Kiernan and M Miranda Stinson, So., 14; Points: Kiernan, 45; Goalie: Paige Soenksen, Sr., 7.4 goals-against average, .562 save percentage.
NOTABLE: The Buffs are ranked sixth in the coaches' poll and fifth in the Inside Lacrosse and US Lacrosse Magazine polls...CU is 0-6 all-time against Stanford, including a pair of losses last year...Stanford had won six consecutive matches before suffering a 15-12 loss last week at Yale...Despite surrendering double-digit goals for just the second time this season in CU's first loss last week at Stony Brook, Soenksen still ranks fourth in the nation in save percentage and third in goals-against average...CU is tied for eighth in the nation in scoring (15 goals per game) and second in scoring defense (7.08)...The Buffs play at MPSF co-leader USC and San Diego State next week.
Marie Moore is from New Jersey, smack in the middle of a region long accepted as the hotbed of lacrosse.
There are dozens of universities boasting established, reputable Division I women's lacrosse programs within a few miles of Moore's home. And when Moore first talked to Colorado coach Ann Elliott, not only had neither Moore nor her parents ever set foot in Colorado, but the freshly-started Buffaloes program didn't even have its own lacrosse field yet.
Moore nonetheless was intrigued by Elliott's credentials as a longtime assistant at Northwestern. The sales pitch regarding the unique opportunity of starting on the ground floor with a brand new program was equally appealing. And as often happens, Moore fell in love with the CU campus as soon as she visited.
It is a story Moore shares with her senior classmates with the Buffaloes, a group of 16 which will be honored at No. 6-ranked CU's final regular-season home game Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. against Stanford.
"Being from New Jersey it was like, 'Colorado?'" Moore said. "It wasn't something I was familiar with at all. I wanted to make an impact right away, so that was something that motivated me and directed me to CU from the start.
"Ann never wanted to put limits on what we could do. She put it in our minds to win championships. It's awesome for us to be at this point and it's really exciting for us. But it's also really rewarding. All the growth and progression we can see now looking back is incredible."
The group's faith in Elliott's vision has been a remarkable CU success story. The Buffs were surprisingly competitive in that inaugural 2014 season, going 11-8 followed by an 11-7 mark the following year. As juniors last year the group led a monumental jump for the program, going 13-5 overall and 7-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
As seniors this year Elliott's initial recruiting class has continued to play a pivotal role in CU's emergence as a legitimate top-10 program. Seniors Johnna Fusco, Katie Macleay, and Cali Castagnola rank second through fourth, respectively, in goals. Moore has been a steady contributor all four seasons, as has defender Molly Rovzar. Senior goalie Paige Soenksen has missed just one game in four years.
Still other seniors, like Claire McCain and Perri Baker, have maintained leadership roles even as their initial playing time eventually decreased as Elliott continued to fortify the talent on CU's roster.
"Being able to buy into one common vision is huge," Elliott said. "When you get a group of girls to all buy into that same vision, anything is possible. Over the course of their four years here, things changed a lot. Roles change, opportunities change, challenges change. We have to do things different as we continue to get better.
"That class as a whole had choices. And they made the choice to believe in themselves, to believe in this program, to work hard and have an impact in whatever role they're in."
It is a somewhat unusual time to celebrate Senior Day, as the Buffs still have four regular-season games remaining on the road over the next two weeks. The Buffs share the MPSF lead with USC at 3-0, while Stanford is lurking right behind at 2-0. Friday's result could prove critical in the seniors' quest to land the program's first conference title.
"I don't want to say we expected to be here, but we've definitely put in the hard work and dedication," Fusco said. "It's taken a lot to get here. When we talk to the freshmen...we were just 11-0 and they didn't know how it was to lose. We've had those losses in the past three years. It's nice to be here and see the hard work paid off."