Colorado soccer at Utah

WHEN: Friday, 1 p.m. MDT, Ute Soccer Field.

BROADCAST: Pac-12 Network.

RECORDS: CU 10-5-4, 4-4-2 Pac-12; Utah 5-10-3, 0-8-2.

LEADERS: CU — Goals: Marty Puketapu 8; Assists: Becca Rasmussen 7; Goalie: Jalen Tompkins 0.57 goals-against average, .880 save percentage. Utah — Goals: Paola Van der Veen and Hailey Skolmoski 8; Assists: Haylee Cacciacarne 5; Goalie: Carly Nelson 1.49 goals-against average, .707 save percentage.

NOTES: Though Utah is winless in league play, CU will have to overcome a rough history on the road against the Utes. The Buffs are just 1-4 at Utah, including an 0-3 mark since both programs joined the Pac-12...CU should still be in line for an NCAA Tournament berth even with a loss, but obviously the Buffs would prefer to leave nothing to chance. "If we get a result, we feel pretty good about it. If we don't, then we don't feel very good about it," CU coach Danny Sanchez said...Tompkins ranks 13th in the nation in save percentage...In less than two full seasons, sophomore midfielder Taylor Kornieck has moved into a tie for eighth-place on CU's career points list with 41 (17 goals, 7 assists).


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If the Colorado women's soccer maintains its current position and once again reaches the NCAA Tournament, the Buffaloes should be well-prepared for the pressure.

While the Buffs certainly have struggled against some of the teams likely to be high seeds when the 64-team field is announced Monday, CU also has essentially been in playoff mode over the past two weekends. And the Buffs have taken care of business.

As CU heads to Utah for the regular season finale on Friday afternoon, the Buffs do so in solid position for their second consecutive NCAA tourney berth and the program's fourth in five seasons. Despite midseason struggles against the elite programs in the Pac-12 Conference, the Buffs can credit their stingy defense and an impressive late-season push for keeping them in the postseason picture.

"We knew that if we just stayed the course and stay positive that eventually we'd start getting some results," CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. "We got some results, and we got some results on the road. And we've got to go get one more against a team that it's going to be their Senior Day. We've got to come out and play our best soccer on Friday."

The Buffs opened Pac-12 play with just one win in their first six matches, going 1-4-1 while scoring only two goals during that stretch — both in a win at Washington State. However, that run featured scoreless games against three top-10 teams — Stanford, UCLA, and defending national champion USC — in addition to Cal, which this week dropped to No. 22 in the national poll.

CU began turning around its fortunes two weeks ago with a 3-0 win against Arizona State and a scoreless draw against Arizona, a team that begins this week at No. 20 in the RPI. The Buffs won games at Oregon State and Oregon last weekend to move to No. 37 in this week's RPI.

Once again, the Buffs' defense has risen to the occasion. After beginning the season by setting program records for most consecutive shutouts as measured in both games (six) and minutes (621:10), CU enters the Utah match having posted four consecutive shutouts with a scoreless streak of 453:05. That is the fourth-longest shutout streak in the program's history in terms of minutes. And it means the Buffs have posted two of the top four shutout streaks in team history this season and three of the top five over the past two seasons.

CU has recorded a team-record 13 shutouts this year.

"I think that's a testament to the players," Sanchez said. "Obviously you have to score goals and win, especially in our league. I think everybody in our league is good defensively. Having said that, I think we're good in goal. We've got some experienced backs playing alongside a very good freshman. The other thing for us is we defend with 11 and we attack with 11. When you have that mentality and everybody buys into it, you're going to have some success on the defensive side of the ball."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07