No. 1 UCLA at Colorado soccer
WHEN: Friday, 3:30 p.m., Prentup Field
RECORDS: UCLA 7-0-1; CU 6-1-2.
BROADCAST: Pac-12 Network.
LEADERS: UCLA — Goals: Hailie Mace 6; Assists: Jessie Fleming 6; Goalie: Teagan Micah 0.85 goals-against average, .720 save percentage. CU — Goals: Taylor Kornieck 5; Assists: Joss Orejel, Becca Rasmussen, Megan Massey 4; Goalie: Jalen Tompkins 0.32 goals-against average, .846 save percentage.
NOTES: CU is 0-5 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams. The only one of those matches that were played at home was in 2007, a 1-0 loss against Stanford…the first RPI rankings of the season was released this week, with the Buffs checking in at No. 55. UCLA is 19…This is CU’s only game this week before visiting Washington State and Washington next week.
There will be no easing into the Pac-12 Conference schedule for the Colorado women’s soccer team.
After completing the nonconference portion of the 2017 season, the Buffaloes return to Prentup Field for one of the marquee matchups of the season, as CU opens league play against No. 1 UCLA on Friday afternoon.
The Bruins sit atop all three national polls, and while the Buffs once again showcased an offensive potential that has been somewhat up and down so far in a 6-1 win last week at the University of Denver, the club expects to lean heavily on its stellar defense on Friday and beyond.
It will be the first time CU has played the nation’s top team since visiting No. 1 UCLA in 2014 and the first time the Buffs have hosted the top-ranked team since No. 1 Stanford visited in 2007.
“The team is coming together, which is kind of what you want at the end of nonconference play,” goalie Jalen Tompkins said. “It’s kind of like a puzzle piece, because you have to put it all together for Pac-12 play and then you go from there. The DU offensive breakout was great for us. We scored really quality goals all-around. And on the defensive side we’ve remained pretty good.
“This is why you come to Colorado to play. This is what you come to play in the Pac-12 for, to play the best teams in the nation. In my opinion, we’re one of them. The whole energy this week has been excitement all around. Coming into Friday, we’re going to bring our own intensity.”
Tompkins and the rest of the Buffs’ defense has been stellar so far, allowing just four goals in 10 games with three of those occurring in CU’s lone loss two weeks ago at Texas, which now is ranked No. 17. Offense was perhaps a question mark for the Buffs entering the season after losing the top two forwards from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but after scoring just two goals in the season’s first three games (which included a pair of double-overtime matches) CU has scored 17 goals over the past six games.
That offense will get another boost this week with the return of freshman forward Marty Puketapu, who missed last week’s match at DU after being called up to the New Zealand national team for a pair of friendlies against the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“I think the offense, after the Denver game, that was a pretty big step up for us,” CU sophomore Taylor Kornieck said. “Going into UCLA, I feel like we’re prepared really well. We know how they play from last year. Everything at practice has been really more intense. I feel like we just need to anticipate where they’re going and hopefully pick some passes off in their half of the field.”
UCLA is one of five Pac-12 programs that begin league play ranked among the top 25, with the Buffs unofficially checking in at No. 33 as the eighth team under others receiving votes. Given the demands of the conference, CU head coach Danny Sanchez has attempted to balance the significance of the opportunity at hand against UCLA with the fact that it is just the first of 11 league games.
“It’s 11 games and every one is brutal,” Sanchez said. “You don’t play the No. 1 team in the country very often, and they clearly are the No. 1 team. Those are fun opportunities. But I think really, if you’re going to take a step back from it, it’s an important game but there’s probably others that are going to be more important in the big picture.”