Although at times it hasn't shown up on the scoreboard, the University of Colorado soccer team has featured a more versatile and dynamic attack than the one that struggled through the last half of the 2015 season.
Part of that added thump has been bolstered by two players who bring an element of energy off the bench in sophomore Stephanie Zuniga and freshman Camilla Shymka.
Both players have provided a spark so far for the Buffs, and on the heels of the team's top offensive showing of the season, the duo hopes to play a part in more offensive fireworks as CU welcomes a pair of solid nonconference foes to Prentup Field this weekend in Hawaii (Friday, 4:30 p.m.) and Iowa (Sunday, 1 p.m.).
Both programs have put together strong starts, with Hawaii bringing a 5-0-1 record to Colorado and Iowa sporting a 5-1 mark — including a win at Missouri, where CU lost in overtime two weeks ago — heading into its match Friday at Iowa State.
"Stephanie has a great knowledge and feel for the game," head coach Danny Sanchez said. "She brings great energy, but she also communicates well whatever her role is. I think she's playing with more confidence this year than last year. But she knows at the end of the day it's always going to be competitive for playing time, so when she does get in there she needs to make an impact. She's done well with that.
"Camilla is the one player on our team who can really stretch the defense. The goals haven't come maybe how she wants to, but she's putting herself in position to score goals. She's got a great work ethic in training and the games, and she holds herself to a high standard. We're pleased with what they're both bringing to the team."
Zuniga scored one goal in 15 games as a reserve last season but has emerged as a consistent force off the bench as a sophomore. She recorded her first career assist on CU's first goal of the season in a win at Air Force on Aug. 19 and posted another assist in the Buffaloes' rivalry win against Colorado State two days later.
Zuniga tallied her first goal of the season this past Sunday in the Buffs' 5-0 rout of Drexel.
"Any time that I'm given, I try to make the most of it," Zuniga said. "It's nice to be able to bring that energy and just hype up the team even more. I think it's important to have that energy coming into the game, especially off the bench."
Shymka, from Calgary, Alberta, is the only other true freshman besides points leader Taylor Kornieck who has logged regular playing time. A speedster who immediately draws defensive attention when Sanchez inserts her into the mix, Shymka recorded the first assist of her career against Drexel.
"As time has gone by I feel like I'm really starting to click with the team," Shymka said. "We're all playing really well together right now and the coaches are giving me the opportunity to play. So I want to prove to them I'm making a difference."