There have been very few weaknesses to lament on a Colorado women's lacrosse team that has made a quick ascension this season into the ranks of the nation's elite programs.
One shortcoming the Buffaloes have occasionally displayed, however, is a propensity to suffer through extended scoring droughts. CU hit another slump at an inopportune time Friday night, getting held scoreless during the second half of an 11-5 defeat in a top-10 showdown at USC.
It was just the second loss of the season for the sixth-ranked Buffs, who will try to rebound in the finale of the road trip Sunday afternoon at San Diego State. The defeat also broke a first-place tie atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings and left the Buffs in second-place with three games remaining in the regular season.
USC extended its home win streak to 23 games.
"All the credit to USC. They're very tough defensively, they're very strong," CU coach Ann Elliott said. "Gussie (Johns), their goalie, made saves that she needed to make. But offensively, we weren't aggressive. Our top players didn't put pressure on the defense. Too casual, and USC made a lot of plays. You can't go into a second half and go 7-0 as the score and expect to beat a good team."
Just one week ago CU suffered through a scoring drought of more than 31 minutes against Stanford, though the Buffs still were able to pull away late for a win on Senior Day.
Such was not the case Friday, as the Buffs were completely shackled in the second half by the NCAA leader in scoring defense. CU scored five goals in the opening period — nearly reaching the Trojans' defensive average of 6.57 goals allowed per game by the break — but found the USC defense much more difficult to navigate over the final 30 minutes.
Overall, the Buffs were held scoreless for 35 minutes, 2 seconds following a Miranda Stinson goal with 5:02 left in the first half that gave CU the 5-4 advantage it held at halftime. It was the first time the Buffs have been held scoreless in a half since the opening frame of a loss at Notre Dame early last season.
Darby Kiernan scored two goals for the Buffs, with Stinson, Johnna Fusco, and Kelsie Garrison adding one apiece. No CU player was credited with an assist, and senior attacker Katie Macleay was held without a point for the first time this season.
The 11 goals allowed matched a season-high for CU.
"I think in the first half we did some things all right offensively, but across the board I don't think we played great," Elliott said. "I thought we made a couple of adjustments in the second half, but then we backed off in some different areas. At the end of the day, there's no excuse. We have to have seven people on the field on offense be aggressive and be a threat, and we clearly did not have that."
No. 9 USC 11, No. 6 Colorado 5
At Los Angeles ColiseumColorado (12-2, 4-1) 5 0—5
USC (12-3, 6-0) 4 7—11
Goals — Colorado: Kiernan 2, Fusco, Stinson, Garrison; USC: Miller 2, Drexel 2, McMahon 2, Huff 2, Del Core 2, Michael.
Assists — Colorado: None; USC: Michael 2, Miller 2, Drexel, Del Core.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Colorado: Soenksen (60-11-9); USC: Johns (60-5-9).