The Colorado women's soccer team is turning the NCAA Tournament into familiar turf.
This time, the Buffaloes will open the tourney against a familiar foe.
On Monday, the Buffs received the 10th NCAA Tournament bid in the program's history and the fourth in the past five seasons, earning a first-round date against the University of Denver. The match will be played at CU's Prentup Field at noon Sunday.
It also is the 10th NCAA Tournament berth for the Pioneers, who return to the 64-team postseason field for the first time since 2013. The winner advances to a second-round date against either High Point or North Carolina, one of the tournament's four No. 1 seeds.
The Buffs' posted a 6-1 win at DU in the teams' regular-season meeting on Sept. 16. The match equaled CU's biggest outburst of the season, though the Pioneers played that game without starting goalie Brittany Wilson. Buffs head coach Danny Sanchez already expects the rematch to be an entirely different contest.
"It was our night, and their starting goalkeeper was out," Sanchez said. "I expect that they'll be full strength on Sunday. We're going to have to get back to that mentality that we're playing a local rival and it's a Colorado Cup match that are always one-goal affairs. That's what it's going to be on Sunday. It's not going to be like it was in the regular season."
Despite a midseason run that saw the Buffs accumulate all five of their losses against programs that generally were ranked among the nation's top 20 all season, CU was able to power into the postseason with a 4-0-1 finish. That run was capped last week with a 2-0 win at Utah, which was the Buffs' team-record 14th shutout of the season.
"Like I told the team after Utah, we did all we could do," Sanchez said. "We had our backs against the wall at 1-4-1 in conference play, but it was four top-15 teams that we lost to. We knew we had to get results down the stretch and we did. So we did all we could do on our end. We felt pretty confident, but once you get to that selection show, you just never know."
It will be the third time the local rivals have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Buffs winning each of the previous postseason matchups — a 1-0 win at DU in 2013 and a 2-1 win at home in 2006. CU played its regular-season finale without leading goal-scorer Marty Puketapu (illness) and assists leader Becca Rasumussen (injury), while junior defender Erin Greening left the match due to an injury. Sanchez said it was too early to know if that trio would be ready for the DU rematch, but indicated the extended layoff should give all three a reasonable chance at returning to the rotation.
"It's too early to tell right now, but we're hoping to have all three back for Sunday," Sanchez said.
A total of seven Pac-12 programs reached the tournament field — the Buffs, Stanford, UCLA, defending national champ USC, Arizona, Cal, and Washington State. The four No. 1 seeds were awarded to Stanford, South Carolina, Duke, and North Carolina.