The University of Colorado soccer team accomplished something no prior team has done before. The Buffs finished the non-conference season unbeaten, closing with a hard-fought 2-1 win over instate rival Denver at Prentup Field on Sunday.
Colorado went 8-0-1 in non-conference play. The team’s nine-game unbeaten streak is tied for third in program history.
Despite the accomplishment, Buffs head coach Danny Sanchez’s focus was clearly aimed at the Pac-12 schedule coming up.
“You want to have momentum going into Pac-12 play,” he said. “So, we have good momentum. Conference play is a whole different deal. These nine games were great, but these next 11 games will really show what we are all about.”
Colorado certainly showed Denver, and was able to get some offense generated early on with five corner kicks in the first 26 minutes. The Buffs used those opportunities to put quick pressure on Denver keeper Brittany Wilson.
The Pioneers matched the Buffs offense early on, forcing Jalen Topkins to make three of her four saves in the first portion of the half. Her diving save through a screened shot in the 22nd minute kept the game scoreless.
CU landed the first blow of the game, though, breaking the scoreless tie in the 28th minute. Freshman Emily Groark sent the ball across the goal box from just off the goal line. Sophomore Marty Puketapu, who celebrated a birthday on Sunday, went up and met the ball with a header just off the six-yard box. She put some force behind the ball and beat a diving Wilson for her second goal of the season.
“It was the best feeling. I can’t even describe it,” Puketapu said. “I was like, ‘I have to get a goal.’ I got one and honestly, I was on the verge of tears. I was so happy that I got it.”
Colorado then pushed its lead to 2-0 in the 40th minute. Tatum Barton had an opportunity blocked by DU that led to a Chaynee Kingsbury throw-in. Kingsbury, known for her flip-throw, threw the ball all the way into the center of the box. The ball was softly cleared to the top of the box and intercepted by Libby Geraghty. Geraghty slipped the ball back to Kingsbury and she put the ball in off Wilson’s hands and across the goal line from the tip of the Pac-12 logo.
The Buffs carried the 2-0 lead into the half. Colorado outshot Denver 9-7 at the break. The Pioneers held the slight advantage in shots on goal, 4-3.
Wilson stood tall in net for DU in the second half. She made five saves in the half to keep Denver’s hopes alive. Her biggest save came in the 62nd minute, guessing correctly on a penalty kick by Sarah Kinzner.
Colorado’s Scout Watson was equally up to the task in the Buffs’ net. Watson continued her shutout streak, holding DU off the board for the first 23 minutes of the second half. Watson made a diving save to her right in the 67th minute and an unlucky bounce right to DU’s Camryn MacMillan led to the Pioneers’ goal.
Colorado had its chances to add to the lead. Megan Massey fired a shot off the crossbar in the 76th minute. Puketapu had a good look in the 77th minute, but Wilson threw up her left hand and deflected the ball wide of the net.
The Buffs totaled a season-high 13 corner kicks. The Pioneers registered just one corner kick in the entire game, getting their chance early in the second half.
The 8-0-1 start to the season is the team’s best in program history (lost first game of the season in 2003 and then won next 11). … Colorado improves to 2-0 in one-goal games this season. … Kingsbury’s goal was the first of her collegiate career. She becomes Colorado’s 10th different goal-scorer this season. … Groark’s assist was her sixth of the season. … Watson’s shutout streak ended at 338:42.
Colorado opens Pac-12 play on the road this week at Oregon State on Friday. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m., and is slated to be aired on the Pac-12 Network.