Taylor Kornieck just wanted to fit in.
As a true freshman and a young one at that — the Nevada native doesn't turn 18 until late November — Kornieck assumed she would have to ease into whatever role awaited her with the University of Colorado soccer team.
Kornieck already had put together a decorated soccer resume before arriving in Boulder, getting named as a captain for the US U-18 National Team and landing a number of MVP and Best XI honors on the club circuit. Still, this was Division I soccer. Kornieck figured she'd have to earn her stripes.
Instead the CU rookie is scoring at an elite level for the Buffaloes, who will take a five-game win streak into a Pac-12 Conference battle Thursday night at Arizona. The Buffs complete the two-game swing at Arizona State on Sunday in a contest set to air on the Pac-12 Networks.
"I was hoping to score a few goals, but leading (the team) like this is an exciting opportunity," Kornieck said. "Coming in and starting and connecting with all the players around me has been really awesome. I think it's just been the players around me. They set me up perfectly."
Kornieck's team-leading sixth goal of the season was both dramatic and timely for the Buffs, as her tally off a pass from Sarah Kinzner lifted CU to a 1-0 victory at Washington State last week in the club's conference opener. Not only was it the 200th win in the CU program's history, but it was the Buffs' first win in Pullman, Wash., and ended a five-game losing streak against the Cougars.
Kornieck's six goals and 14 points already rank as the fifth-best totals by a freshman in the 20-year history of the program. While her size (6-foot-1) and strength are unique assets, Kornieck also has displayed a composure and patience in the scoring area well beyond her years.
"Composure in front of the goal is difficult," CU coach Danny Sanchez said. "She's shown that she has composure in the final third, which is important. But just as important, or more important, is the confidence to do it. Composure and confidence kind of go hand-in-hand. She's a player that has composure and confidence that if it doesn't happen once, she'll get it the next time."
This weekend presents an opportunity for the surging Buffs (7-3, 1-0 Pac-12) to reinforce their early traction in what once again should be a crowded league race. The Buffs won only one league game a year ago (and none on the road) yet getting a positive result against two clubs slotted below CU's No. 42 RPI mark would provide a huge boost before playing six of the final eight league games at home.
Arizona (44 RPI) was thumped 4-0 by USC in its league opener, while Arizona State heads into its league match Thursday against Utah with an RPI mark of 145.
"Going on the road again, I think we're in good shape," Sanchez said. "We're excited to have the opportunity, and we're also excited for the opportunity to come home for six of our last eight. We need to go and get some results this weekend."