For Tatum Barton, there certainly has been no place like home.
Not long ago Barton figured leaving a home state she loved was worth the experience of seeing more of the world. It turned out a return to Colorado has helped Barton emerge as one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the nation for the Colorado women’s soccer team, which will take an unbeaten record into its Pac-12 Conference opener Friday at Oregon State (5 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
After graduating from Columbine High School in Littleton, Barton spent one unproductive freshman season at Texas Tech. She joined CU as a transfer in 2017 and has been finding the back of the net ever since.
“I think everything happens for a reason, and there’s a reason why I came back home to Colorado,” Barton said. “I’m really blessed to be here. The coaches here really built up my confidence. It’s a different style of play here. It’s more tactical and small play.
“I knew the Pac-12 is the best conference for soccer. I knew I was going to be pushed and I like competition. That helps bring me to my top level.”
Since joining the Buffs, Barton has been a completely different player than the one who was unable to record a goal or an assist in 18 games (nine starts) at Texas Tech in 2016. Barton finished third on the team last year with six goals, recording goals in critical late-season road wins at Oregon and Utah as the Buffs advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons.
Barton has pushed that scoring pace even further this season. Her nine goals is tops among all Pac-12 players and ranks in a tie for third nationally. Barton recorded the sixth hat trick in program history on Aug. 25 against Missouri, and roughly a season and a half into her CU career Barton already owns five multiple-goal games.
Barton needs just one goal to become the 10th CU player to record 10 in a season and, perhaps most importantly, the Buffs are 9-0 when Barton scores a goal. Barton’s next goal also will move her into CU’s top 10 list of all-time leading goal scorers, and Friday’s match at Oregon State will be just her 32nd game in a Buffs. Only two players on that list — teammate Taylor Kornieck (49 games) and 2016 senior Danica Evans (42) — have played fewer than 60 games with the Buffs.
“In our handbook, one of our things is to learn to appreciate delayed gratification,” CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. “Last year and this year, (Barton) wasn’t starting from day one, she wasn’t getting big minutes. She has earned the opportunity, last year and this year. She stayed positive. Kept working. Didn’t pout. Didn’t make excuses.
“I think one of the big things this year versus last year is she’s a lot more fit. She’s taking care of herself. She’s eating better. She has a more professional approach, and I think it’s showing with her mobility on the field.”
Barton scored four of her six goals last year on the road and added a two-goal game at Michigan State nearly two weeks ago. That ability to produce away from home could be critical for an injury-depleted Buffs squad that will play its first three Pac-12 games on the road.
“We got the results that we needed in nonconference play, but we know that the next 11 games are a whole lot different than the first nine,” Sanchez said. “We’re going to a lot better teams coming up, so we need to get sharper, we need to get healthy. But we need players like Tatum to step up and perform.”