Colorado soccer spring schedule
March 19: Colorado 2, Air Force 2 (CU goals: Martine Puketapu, Sarah Kinzner).
Sunday, April 9: Home vs. Northern Colorado, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 15: Home vs. Wyoming, Noon.
Saturday, April 22: Home vs. Nebraska, Noon.
Saturday, April 29: Home vs. Kansas State, Noon.
NOTE: All games at Prentup Field and open to the public. Sunday's match against UNC originally was scheduled for 7 p.m. at Folsom Field but will instead be played at 4:30 p.m. at Prentup. Bleacher seating will be limited at the spring games so fans are encouraged to bring their own chairs.
Martine Puketapu always believed playing college soccer in the United States would be the ideal way to boost her skills against a higher-caliber level of competition than she typically faced in her native New Zealand.
How to get there, however, proved far more problematic than dreaming up that goal.
Given American college recruiters rarely canvass New Zealand, Puketapu was compelled to create an email barrage to coaches to deliver a highlight video and her own version of a recruiting pitch.
It didn't take long for Colorado coach Danny Sanchez to become suitably impressed. Puketapu, who made her first appearance with the full New Zealand women's national team earlier this month, arrived in Boulder at the semester break, and as the Buffaloes go through spring workouts she seemingly is in line to fill the most glaring void from CU's 2016 NCAA Tournament team at the top of the offensive attack.
"I really want to become a better player and I knew I had to go elsewhere to find it," said Puketapu, a 19-year old freshman. "College soccer has always been appealing to me. To be honest, I didn't know too much about what teams were good or what the conferences were. So I had to do lots of research.
"Out of the (responses) that came back, University of Colorado I could just tell there was something different about this university. They had a really good season last season. I only came for my visit in December and I decided in January, so it was a quick process. I wanted to go somewhere different, and I found Boulder specifically is very similar to New Zealand."
Following the Buffs' third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in four seasons last fall, CU bid farewell to Danica Evans, the team's co-leader in goals, and fellow forward Emily Bruder. Puketapu, a veteran of New Zealand's age-group national teams before joining the full national team for the Cyprus Cup last month, is expected to help dull the ache of that offensive void. She scored a goal last week in CU's spring-season opener against Air Force.
During spring workouts the Buffs also are working two transfers into the mix — junior Cassie Phillips (Maryland), and senior Becca Rasmussen, a native of Golden who played three seasons at Georgia. Both players are expected to add depth to the midfield for the Buffs.
"With Emily and Danica graduating, they did a great job last year so obviously we knew that was going to be an area of focus for us," Sanchez said. "Bringing a player like (Puketapu) that can come in and compete, I think she'll have an opportunity. It's a good time for her to her to show what she can do in these (spring) games and still be a freshman in the fall."
The Buffs are working with a shortage of goalies this spring. Incumbent starter Jalen Tompkins still is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and Scout Watson suffered an injury in the Buffs' spring opener last week against Air Force...Camilla Shymka and Nancy Best, both of whom suffered knee injuries late last season, are not participating in spring drills but are expected to be cleared in time for the 2017 season. Shymka tallied one goal and two assists in a mostly reserve role over 15 games and also is expected to help offset the Buffs' offensive losses in the fall.