First place on the line in Pac-12 as CU women’s lacrosse visits Stanford

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado's Sarah Brown was named the IWLCA Defensive Player of the Week. Brown also won the same honor this week from the Pac-12.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado's Darby Kiernan, left center, and the Buffs will play Stanford on Friday with first place in the Pac-12 up for grabs.



No. 16 Colorado Buffaloes at No. 12 Stanford Cardinal

GAME TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. MT, Stanford Stadium.

RECORDS: Colorado 9-4, 6-1 Pac-12 Conference; Stanford 11-3, 6-1.

LEADERS: ColoradoGoals: Darby Kiernan 42; Assists: Kiernan 18; Points: Kiernan 60; Goalie: Julia Lisella 7.80 goals-against average, .542 save percentage. Stanford — Goals: Ali Baiocco 39; Assists: Kelsey Murray 27; Points Murray 65; Goalie: Allie DeCar 9.30 goals-against average, .485 save percentage.

NOTES: CU senior Sarah Brown was named the IWLCA Defensive Player of the Week. Brown also won the same honor this week from the Pac-12…Kiernan, the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, is closing in on her own CU single-season records for goals (52 in 2015), assists (25 in 2017) and points (77 in 2017) with three games remaining…After losing their first six games against Stanford, the Buffs have topped the Cardinal in the teams’ past three games…Lisella begins the week ranked fifth in the nation in save percentage…The Buffs play at Cal on Sunday and complete the regular season at home April 20 against Oregon. The following week CU will host the inaugural Pac-12 Conference tournament.

It was a near-impossible comeback, and one that led to one of the most improbable victories in the short but successful history of the Colorado women’s lacrosse team.

In a battle of top-20 teams on March 9 at Kittredge Field, the Buffaloes rallied from a 12-6 halftime deficit to stun the Cardinal with a 18-16 victory, outscoring visiting Stanford 12-4 in the second half. That backdrop only elevates the stakes when the teams collide for the rematch on Friday with first-place on the line in the Pac-12 Conference.

With both teams sporting a two-game lead atop the league standings with three games remaining, Friday’s winner clearly will have the inside track at claiming the inaugural title in the first season of the Pac-12 Conference women’s lacrosse league. Stanford has won eight consecutive games since its setback in Boulder.

“I don’t think there’s a team playing better than Stanford right now in terms of how they’re playing offensively, defensively, and especially in transition,” CU coach Ann Elliott said. “Obviously the last game went our way and they were up by a lot, so I think they’re going to come out fired up and ready to go. We’ve got to come out and match that from the beginning and be ready to slow that down.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of emotion in the game… and from there we just have to execute and do the little things. A little bit better defensively and a little bit better offensively than we did in the last game.”

While the Buffs reached the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time, a conference championship of any sort is one accomplishment the fifth-year program has yet to achieve. CU finished second to USC in its final season in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation last year and also lost to the Trojans in the league championship game.

“I think every team in the Pac-12 is excited about the Pac-12 this season,” Elliott said. “Their goal is to come out and win a Pac-12 championship and be the first team to do that. So our focus is just on what we can control. We can’t win a championship in one game, but we’ve got to take care of things one game at a time to put ourselves in the best position to compete for that. Right now, we’re just focused on getting better and going out there and seeing what we can do on Friday.”

Pat Rooney: or