The Colorado women's soccer team expected a far different match against the University of Denver than the one the teams put together two months ago.
That is exactly what happened. Yet the end result remained the same.
Powered by a pair of goals in quick succession early in the second half, the Buffaloes advanced in the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 victory against their rivals from DU in a first-round showdown Sunday at Prentup Field. It was CU's fourth consecutive first-round win in the national tournament, a run that began with in the opening round against DU in 2013.
CU will travel to North Carolina to face the Tar Heels, one of the tournament's four No. 1 seeds, on Friday at 3 p.m. MST.
"We knew, at least the coaching staff knew and I think the players figured out at halftime, that this was going to be a fight," CU coach Danny Sanchez said. "We didn't play great in the first half. But the second half I thought we were fantastic. We scored two great goals and defended well.
"At this point, as the cliché goes, it's survive and advance. I'm really proud of this group because this was a very dangerous game for us, playing a local rival in the NCAA Tournament. Sometimes you play with nothing to lose. We had everything to lose today. We gutted it out and I feel it was a well-deserved result."
CU dominated the Pioneers for a 6-1 victory on Sept. 16 but on Sunday it was DU that struck first, netting a goal from Leah Swander off an assist from Hannah Adler late in the 38th minute. The strike ended CU's shutout streak at 581 minutes, 3 seconds — the second-longest streak in the program's history, trailing only the mark of 621:10 the Buffs put together earlier this season. CU goalie Jalen Tompkins saw her individual record shutout streak end at 536:03.
DU held its 1-0 advantage through halftime, but the Buffs took over quickly after the break. Not long after a Megan Massey line drive sailed just over the DU goal, Massey made amends with her fourth goal of the season to even the match in the 50th minute.
The Buffs needed just 2:19 to take the lead, as Massey and Kelsey Aaknes earned assists on Taylor Kornieck's seventh goal of the season.
"I think from the players' perspective, we all came together and (said) we're going to do this for each other," Massey said. "It's about the team, especially the seniors. This could be their last game, so we laid it all on the line and just did it for each other."
While the Buffs narrowly missed extending the lead on several occasions, the Pioneers nearly notched an equalizer with about four minutes remaining when a shot by Swander deflected off the crossbar. DU's Angelica Pacheco had a chance at the rebound but Tompkins smothered the attempt.
"I think it was a matter of bringing more energy. I think we came out really strong (after halftime)," Kornieck said. "We gave up that first goal and we turned it around and we came out harder than we did before. I'm really proud of the team."
Colorado 2, Denver 1
At Prentup FieldDenver (11-9-1) 1 0 — 1
Colorado (12-5-4) 0 2 — 2
Goals (assists) — Denver: Swander (Adler), 38th minute; Colorado: Massey (Aaknes, Kornieck), 50th minute; Colorado: Kornieck (Puketapu, Massey), 52nd minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Denver: Wilson (90-2-4); Colorado: Tompkins (90-1-4).