CU soccer takes aim at third straight NCAA tourney berth on Senior Day

  • Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer

    Colorado's Erin Greening, right, has played in 55 games along the back line over the past three seasons for the Buffs.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado's Sarah Kinzner, left, has been an important part of the Buffs midfield for four seasons.



Utah at No. 21 Colorado soccer

Kickoff: Friday, 3 p.m., Prentup Field.

Broadcast: Pac-12 Mountain.

Records: Utah 8-8-2, 5-4-1 Pac-12 Conference; CU 13-3-3, 5-3-2.

Notes: The Buffs go into the final weekend of the regular season facing a fourth-place finish at best in the Pac-12. CU went into Thursday’s action around the league in fourth with 17 points, one ahead of Arizona State and Utah and three ahead of Arizona…CU midfielder Taylor Kornieck (nine goals, 10 assists) needs one goal to give the Buffs three 10-goal scorers for the first time in history. Senior Jorian Baucom has 12 and junior Tatum Barton owns 11…The Buffs are 8-4-2 all-time against the Utes but just 2-3-2 since both programs joined the Pac-12…Baucom (30 points), Kornieck (28) and Barton (26) have posted three of the top seven single-season point totals in team history…The NCAA Tournament selection show will be held Monday.

In 2015, Erin Greening scored the first two goals of her Colorado soccer career in the first five games of her freshman season.

At that pace, it was easy to assume Greening one day would play her way into the list of CU’s all-time leading goal-scorers. It never happened, as a switch to defense hasn’t budged Greening’s goal total since.

Yet that’s not to say Greening hasn’t made a meaningful impact for a club that is on the cusp of making its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. As Greening and six other CU seniors prepare for their final regular season home game at Prentup Field Friday afternoon against Utah, their contributions to a program that missed the NCAA tourney when they were freshmen will be in the spotlight.

Despite missing eight games earlier this season due to a knee injury, Greening has been a mainstay of a defense that set several program records in 2017, playing in 55 games along the back line over the past three seasons.

“Moving to outside back was definitely a different approach to the game. But I really love it and I loved the switch,” Greening said. “When they approached me with it, I had never played defense before. Once I started to get into it, I got into it. I love watching how plays develop, and you can kind of be a play-maker in the back.”

Greening, of course, hardly is the only member of the Buffs’ senior class that has contributed to the multiple NCAA tourney runs. Goalie Scout Watson, a fifth-year senior, has been a two-year captain, humbly accepting a backup role despite being talented enough to start for most college soccer teams that don’t have JJ Tompkins on the roster.

Sarah Kinzner has been a steady presence as a controlling midfielder for four seasons. Megan Massey has recorded six goals and eight assists in three seasons after transferring back to her native Colorado from Tennessee. Jorian Baucom has played just her senior season with the Buffs, but she continued the high-scoring precedent she set at LSU by entering the final weekend of the regular season as the Pac-12’s co-leader in goals.

Even seniors Nancy Best and Isobel Dalton, who have played backup roles this season, were lauded for their leadership this year by head coach Danny Sanchez.

“They’ve been fantastic,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes people think their senior year will be ‘The Year,’ but sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Players like Nancy and Izzy and Scout, who are all great players, but they’re on a great team. Their roles have probably been less than they wanted. But they’ve been professional in their approach every day, and Scout has been a great captain for us and is a great goalkeeper. None of them have put themselves ahead of the team.”

CU’s team-record 16-game unbeaten that started the season has been overshadowed recently by a three-game losing streak against three of the top teams in the nation. Yet after a 7-0 drubbing suffered at the hands of No. 1 Stanford, the Buffs rebounded to go toe-to-toe with two other top-10 teams in USC and UCLA, despite suffering one-goal losses.

Finishing with a victory against Utah would offer a better springboard into what is expected to be a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for the Buffs, and their fifth in six seasons.

“We’re going to bring it out there and bring the energy and leave it all out there, because you never know when it’s going to be your last game,” Kinzner said. “We just have to show who we are. I’m not ready to be over yet, so hopefully we can keep going.”

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