Denver Pioneers at CU soccer

WHEN: Sunday, noon, Prentup Field.

BROADCAST: Pac-12 Mountain.

RECORDS: DU 11-8-1; CU 11-5-4.

LEADERS: DU — Goals: Jessie Dancy 14; Assists: Hannah Adler, Angelica Pacheco, and Brittney Lewis 4; Goalie: Brittany Wilson 1.21 goals-against average, .729 save percentage. CU — Goals: Marty Puketapu 8; Assists: Becca Rasmussen 7; Goalie: Jalen Tompkins 0.53 goals-against average, .887 save percentage.

NOTES: The Buffs defeated Utah in the regular-season finale last week without Puketapu and Rasmussen, while junior defender Erin Greening left the match due to an injury. But head coach Danny Sanchez is confident his club will be at full strength. "I think we're about as good as we've been at any time in the year," Sanchez said...Five different players scored goals in CU's 6-1 rout of DU on Sept. 16, including a pair from sophomore Tatum Barton...This is the 10th NCAA Tournament appearance for both programs...Tompkins ranks 11th in the nation in save percentage and is on track to shatter CU's single-season record of .855 set by Kristin Radlinski in 2008. Tompkins came within percentage points of matching that record last year...The winner will play at North Carolina, one of the four No. 1 seeds, next week in the second round.

The Buffaloes and Pioneers have clashed on this stage before.

Twice, in fact. But it was the 2013 matchup that seemingly sent the state's top two collegiate women's soccer programs in different directions.

That year, a lower-seeded Colorado team traveled to the University of Denver and eliminated the Pioneers from the NCAA Tournament with a 1-0 victory sparked by a late unassisted goal from Boulder native Anne Stuller.

That year was the second for the Buffaloes under coach Danny Sanchez, and it was the first NCAA tourney appearance in five years for a CU program that made such appearances a habit through the first decade of the 2000s. It started a run of NCAA Tournament berths that now stands at four in five seasons.

DU, on the other hand, experienced an uncharacteristic lull in the tourney appearances in the regime of longtime coach Jeff Hooker, returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since that loss in Sunday's matchup.

"I think if you look back to 2013, when none of our players had been in it and we were kind of the underdogs against Denver, I think to a certain extent we were just happy to be there," Sanchez said. "Since then we've set a standard of expectation to be in the NCAA Tournament and hopefully advance. I think the team is confident and excited for Sunday."

CU secured its second consecutive NCAA tourney date and 10th overall by putting together a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) to close the regular season. Despite a number of tough results in the middle of the season against some of the top programs in the nation, the Buffs are confident in the belief they are playing their best soccer at the right time of year.

"I think we have a lot of momentum," sophomore midfielder Taylor Kornieck said. "We ended the season really good and hopefully we can take it into the next game."

The Buffs have won their opening-round game in each of their previous NCAA Tournament appearances under Sanchez, and they host a DU team they defeated handily in a 6-1 decision in Denver on Sept. 16. The Pioneers played without starting goalie Brittany Wilson in that match, and both Sanchez and his team are expecting a far more competitive showdown on Sunday.

"You don't want to play your best soccer at the beginning (of the season) and nobody really does," CU goalie Jalen Tompkins said. "It's really good for us that we've got the momentum going. Making the NCAA Tournament was one of our big goals, but I don't think we're going to stop there. We have to keep going. We can't just settle for 'We made the tournament.' We have to keep pushing and hopefully make a run. It's exciting and we have a lot of confidence going in."

Pat Rooney: or