If you can’t beat them, make some of them join you.
While that wasn’t at all the mindset of University of Colorado soccer coach Danny Sanchez when he welcomed Kahlia Hogg and Emily Bruder into the Buffaloes’ program as transfers, it still doesn’t change the fact that both players enjoyed roles in CU’s most recent setbacks in the NCAA Tournament.
When the Buffs were eliminated from the Sweet 16 in 2013, CU’s first tourney appearance under Sanchez, Hogg came off the bench to play 11 minutes for Florida State. In 2014, Bruder started and played 50 minutes for North Carolina in a double-overtime, second-round win against the Buffs.
Both players figure to play key roles Saturday at noon when CU makes its return to soccer’s Big Dance in a first-round match against Oklahoma State at Prentup Field.
“It’s a small world,” Sanchez said. “After games I guess that’s why I shake everybody’s hand. In 2013 Florida State was really giving it to us and (Hogg) came in late and almost scored. I told her I would’ve disowned her on the spot.”
Sanchez of course was joking, but Hogg’s case was unique in that she actually had received her release from Florida State before the 2013 season was over, and even already knew she was headed to Boulder during that tournament showdown.
Now a fifth-year senior, Hogg was worked diligently to come back from a knee injury she suffered on Oct. 6 against Oregon that sidelined her for six games. Hogg returned for the regular season finale last week against Utah, coming off the bench to support the midfield, and she expects to be even stronger this week.
“I’m incredibly excited,” Hogg said. “Not just personally, being able to come back and hopefully play more than just one NCAA game, but just for the whole team to get this opportunity. I think Oklahoma State will be a great first-round game for us.”
For a team that finished in a tie for second in one of the toughest leagues in the nation, CU appeared under-represented in the All-Pac-12 Conference honors released earlier this week.
Taylor Kornieck was named the Freshman of the Year and was joined on the All-Freshman team by goalie Jalen Tompkins. Kornieck and senior Danica Evans were first-team all-league selections, but no Buffs landed on the second team or the honorable mention list.
While CU had just two players honored on the first, second, or honorable mention teams, league champ Stanford had eight. USC, which beat CU but ended with an identical league record and point total as the Buffs behind Stanford, had seven.
Perhaps most glaring was Sanchez being overlooked for coach of the year, an honor that went to Paul Ratcliffe from league champion Stanford. To take nothing away from the Cardinal’s tremendous season, but Stanford reached the NCAA quarterfinals last year and was tabbed as the favorite this year in a preseason poll of the league’s coaches.
Sanchez helped CU rebound from a last-place finish last year to reach a tie for second this year, and the Buffs were selected 10th in the preseason poll.
“We don’t ever really talk about it. Individual awards are a reflection of team success,” Sanchez said. “When you look at the players that got selected, they’re all good players. I respect the coaches’ decisions on it. We’re happy we had some of our players acknowledged.”
One scenario the Buffs have prepared for this week that isn’t a factor during the regular season is the possibility of a penalty-kick shootout. During the regular season, teams play two 10-minute overtimes and, if no goal is scored, the match is declared a draw. In the tournament, such stalemates will be decided on penalty kicks.
“I think you prepare for everything, because this is the only time you’ll get it,” Sanchez said. “All these players — whether it’s club or high school — usually at some point have been involved in it. It’s a crapshoot anyway, but you want to be prepared and you want to be confident in what you’re doing.”
Oklahoma State reserve midfielder Morgan McDougal was a high school teammate of CU midfielder Megan Massey at Mountain Vista in Highlands Ranch…Former Buff Brie Hooks, who ranks sixth all-time at CU with 21 goals but transferred after her junior season last year, returns to the NCAA tournament with Seattle University in a first-round date against UCLA. Hooks shares the Seattle team lead with seven goals and also leads her club with four assists.