Through just four games on the young soccer season, Sarah Kinzner already has surpassed the goal-scoring total she produced while playing in all 20 games for the Colorado Buffaloes as a freshman last year.
It's the sort of jump any coach expects to a certain level from players moving up from their rookie seasons. However, the added scoring punch hasn't been the most impressive aspect of Kinzner's game so far to CU soccer coach Danny Sanchez.
After two tough road losses last weekend, the Buffs return home to face Michigan State on Thursday (4:30 p.m.) and Drexel on Sunday (noon). It will be the first matchup against both programs for CU.
"It's not because (Kinzner) has scored a couple goals, but she's picking her moments to be creative and when to play-make, and when to just keep the ball moving," Sanchez said. "She's done a lot better job with that. She's stronger, she's bigger, and she is more experienced and comfortable with what we're doing. Obviously we need her to create and score, and I think she's playing at a higher level."
Kinzner tallied a goal and two assists last season and has optimized her chances so far during the Buffs' 2-2 start, finding the net on both of her shots on goal. The native of Calgary, Alberta recorded the Buffs' first goal of the season in an opening win at Air Force on Aug. 19, and she provided the offense in Sunday's 2-1 overtime loss at Missouri. She also registered an assist in a win against Colorado State in CU's home opener.
A veteran of Canadian national teams at various levels throughout her youth career, Kinzner appeared in all five matches for Canada in the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in Honduras this past offseason, scoring two goals while helping her team to a runner-up finish. Playing against elite competition clearly has given Kinzner a boost going into her second season with the Buffs.
"It definitely helped by playing against some pretty good teams and scoring a couple of goals," Kinzner said. "It made me believe in myself a little more and gave me confidence to shoot a little more. But I also learned a lot tactically to support my teammates. I try to do that every game and keep building, keep growing. With the game Thursday against Michigan State, hopefully we can turn it around and get a win."
Michigan State brings a 1-1-1 mark to Prentup Field, with the Spartans' lone loss occurring on the road last week in a 3-0 decision against a Virginia squad currently ranked third in the nation.
The Buffs likely will turn to redshirt freshman Jalen Tompkins in goal as Scout Watson continues to recover from a concussion she suffered in last week's loss at Kansas. Tompkins is coming off a performance at Missouri where she set a CU freshman record with 12 saves.
"They're going to be kind of the stereotypical of what you think of the Big Ten — they're going to be hard-working and they're going to have athleticism," Sanchez said. "They're a team that did well in the Big Ten last year and their coach (Tom Saxton) has been there 26 years. I think for us I think it's important for us to take advantage of being at home at altitude, with good weather and a good crowd to play with energy and tempo."