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Rooney: Ann Elliott deserves praise for quick rise of CU lacrosse

Colorado head coach Ann Elliott has led the Buffs to three straight winning seasons.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Ann Elliott has led the Buffs to three straight winning seasons.

They established a new standard for victories and made it a perfect 3-for-3 in appearances in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation final four during the program’s three years of existence.

They topped their regional rivals from the University of Denver for the first time and saw a program-best five players get named to the All-MPSF first and second teams. They did all this even after losing last year’s third-leading goal scorer due to a preseason knee injury and are set to return a near-entire roster that has played together since they were freshmen.

And the best part for head coach Ann Elliott? The Buffaloes from the CU women’s lacrosse team are far from satisfied.

The Buffs will be forced to play the waiting game following what likely was a season-ending loss against Stanford Friday night in the MPSF semifinals. The numbers suggest CU will be left out of the 26-team NCAA Tournament field when it is announced on May 8, but being left out should not diminish the accomplishments of the third-year program.

With apologies to Tad Boyle and Mark Wetmore, building a bona fide league contender in just three short years makes Elliott CU’s top coach of the 2015-16 school year.

“Obviously I’m very proud of what the girls have done this year,” Elliott said. “Satisfied? No, I don’t think you’re ever satisfied with where we are. We want to do better, and we didn’t this year. From that, you have to learn and you have to grow. You have to come back stronger. We just have to get better and we need everyone to be a part of that. We’ve got to learn how to win these games.”

CU has never suffered a losing campaign in its three seasons under Elliott, with this year’s 13-5 mark setting a new program standard. The Buffs have had every season ended by Stanford in the MPSF semifinals, and with the return of all but one player next season — including the expected comeback from injury of Blair Sisk, who tallied 27 goals a year ago — the pressure will be on for Elliott and the Buffs to continue their ascension.

CU began last week slotted at No. 30 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings. Against teams in the top 20 of the RPI — Stanford, USC, Notre Dame, and Northwestern — the Buffs went 0-5. CU’s only victory against a team with a superior RPI was a one-goal overtime decision at home against current No. 26 James Madison.

That shortcoming must improve next year if the Buffs want to enjoy life on the opposite side of the NCAA tournament bubble. They will be well-armed to do exactly that.

“I think we had high expectations for what we could do this year,” Elliott said. “I think we did well, but I think we would’ve liked to have competed better against the top teams we played. That’s part of growing and you can’t look back. We have to be proud of how hard we worked, but also take that feeling and be ready for whatever comes next.”

Pat Rooney: or

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