Pretty much from the moment Danica Evans opted to return to her home state for the final two seasons of her collegiate soccer career, Colorado coach Danny Sanchez has professed his belief that Buffaloes fans have yet to see all Evans has to offer as an elite scorer.
Now embarking on the stretch run of her career, Evans has the look of a player hitting her peak.
Evans and the resurgent Buffaloes have climbed to No. 22 in the nation and face their biggest challenge yet Thursday night in a road date at No. 3 Stanford. CU is 6-0 in conference play for the first time in the program's 20-year history, and Evans' combination of leadership and scoring touch has been a big factor in the Buffs' 2016 turnaround.
"We've done it defensively, and we've scored some goals recently to win some games," Sanchez said. "Obviously JJ (Tompkins) has been very good in goal, but a player like Danica is a fantastic player like I've been saying. I've always felt like she's going to break out and now she's the fourth-leading scorer in the Pac-12.
"Sometimes she gets lost in the shuffle a little bit, but she's a player capable of scoring against anyone and she's playing with a lot of confidence right now."
Evans' standout senior season has been overshadowed somewhat by the dominant freshman campaign being put together by Taylor Kornieck, who ranks second in the league with 10 goals and shares the Pac-12 lead with 24 points. Yet Evans' contributions have been just as critical heading into CU's most difficult portion of the schedule.
A native of Lakewood, Evans spent her first two seasons at the University of Portland before joining the Buffs last year. While she shared the team lead with five goals in 2015, the addition of Evans didn't prevent the Buffs' from managing just nine goals during a 1-8-2 last-place finish in the league.
This season has been a different story on all fronts. Evans snapped a four-game scoreless streak by notching two points in each of the past two games, recording a goal and two assists in a win against Oregon on Oct. 9 and scoring two goals to lead a 2-1 win against Washington last week.
Evans' second goal against the Huskies, a phenomenal individual effort in which she headed the ball to herself before using the outside of her foot to tap a shot past Washington's charging goalkeeper, was credited as the league's play of the week. Evans ranks fourth in the Pac-12 with 19 points (seven goals, five assists) and, more importantly, the Buffs are in control of their own destiny in the league race heading into Thursday's date at Stanford and Sunday's battle at No. 10 Cal.
"Every Pac-12 game is a battle," Sanchez said. "You go on the road, it's going to be tough. You're at home, it's going to be tough. We'll do our best and make adjustments to what we do and play hard, and whatever happens we still play Cal on Sunday."
The Buffs still will be without starting defenders Joss Orejel and Kahlia Hogg due to knee injuries, and freshman forward Camilla Shymka (one goal, two assists) has been added to the injury list after suffering a torn right ACL in last week's win against Washington.