Sadie Grozier always has had a knack for finding the back of the net. It’s a habit that convinced Colorado women’s lacrosse coach Ann Elliott Whidden to approach Grozier with a somewhat surprising proposal early in the preseason.
The Buffaloes entered the season with seniors Miranda Stinson and Samantha Nemirov wondering who exactly would help them provide scoring punch for the Buffs in 2019. It turned out the answer was a switch of positions for Grozier, a sophomore who previously had spent her entire playing career as a midfielder until Whidden moved her to the front of the attack.
As CU gets set to make its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance with a first-round date against Dartmouth Friday afternoon in Boston, Grozier has emerged as s dependable offensive option and, perhaps, a future leader for a team that soon will be forced to replace its top two scorers in Stinson and Nemirov.
“I think coming into sophomore year I had a little bit more confidence. That definitely helped me be able to help my teammates more with assists,” Grozier said. “I transitioned from midfield to attack, so there was a much bigger emphasis on finishing plays and scoring. I’d never played attack before. I played midfield my whole life. So it’s really a fun, different challenge. It’s a different mindset versus playing midfield because you’re just focused on one thing. It was a good challenge, but I like it.”
The Buffs featured a much more diverse set of scoring options a year ago, when Grozier finished with 22 goals while playing in all 20 games. However, she didn’t record a single assist, and the switch to attack this spring has allowed Grozier to expand her game. She enters Friday’s first-round match ranked third on the team in goals (32), points (41), and assists as well (nine).
Though Grozier went scoreless in CU’s Pac-12 title game loss against USC that saw the Buffs post a program-low three goals, she matched a career-best with five goals in CU’s semifinal win against Stanford, completing a run in which she tallied 15 goals in six games.
“I think Sadie from her freshman year has really made an impact on our team,” Whidden said. “I think her freshman year she was really able to take advantage of the opportunities that were presented. This year as we moved in, we were a different team and a different group offensively. As we looked at things and got going in the spring, she’s just a player that can put a lot of pressure on the defense and creates opportunities as well. And that’s what we needed after losing Darby (Kiernan) and Carly (Cox).”
It was a more difficult road to the NCAA Tournament that the previous two seasons for the Buffs, who entered April with a 5-5 mark but went 5-2 the rest of the way. Despite the lopsided loss in the Pac-12 title game, Whidden still believes her club’s April push has the Buffs playing their best lacrosse at the right time of the season.
“We have a group that I think is ready to compete and are excited about the opportunity,” Whidden said. “From all of the challenges we had this year, we bounced back. That USC loss hurt a little bit more because it in a conference championship, but every time we’ve had a little time to regroup, this team has bounced back. They believe in themselves and they know they can do better.”
No. 21 Colorado lacrosse vs. No. 18 Dartmouth
NCAA Tournament first round
GAME TIME: Friday, 2 p.m. MT, Newton Campus Lacrosse and Soccer Field, Boston.
BROADCAST: TV – ACC Network.
RECORDS: Colorado 10-7; Dartmouth 11-5.
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – A Miranda Stinson, Sr., 59 goals, 15 assists; A Samantha Nemirov, Sr., 44 goals, 15 assists; A Sadie Grozier, So., 32 goals, nine assists; GK Julia Lisella, Jr., .485 save percentage, 9.35 goals-against average. Dartmouth – A Kierra Sweeney, Sr., 57 goals, 13 assists; A Kellen D’Alleva, Sr., 20 goals, 43 assists; MF Elizabeth Mastrio, Sr., 40 goals, 19 assists; GK Kiera Vrindten, Jr., .398 save percentage, 11.86 goals-against average.
NOTES: CU coach Ann Elliott Whidden has a thorough history with her counterpart at Dartmouth, Danielle Spencer. Whidden was a senior at Northwestern when Spencer joined the Wildcats as a freshman, and Spencer still was with the Wildcats when Whidden returned to her alma mater to begin her collegiate coaching career…The winner will play No. 1-ranked and second overall seed Boston College on Sunday at 11 a.m. MT…CU has never played Dartmouth…The Buffs and Dartmouth had one common opponent this season in nationally-ranked Michigan. The Wolverines won 8-6 at CU on Feb. 24 and defeated Dartmouth at home in double overtime on Feb. 17…CU posted the program’s first NCAA tourney win a year ago with a first-round victory against Jacksonville. Stinson scored four goals in that match.