In relatively short order, head coach Ann Elliott Whidden has built the Colorado women’s lacrosse team into a consistent national power.
After three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, the latest of which ended Sunday in a second-round loss at top-ranked Boston College, the Buffaloes are trying to make the leap from a consistent top-25 program into one that is able to compete for conference and even national championships. The past two offseasons have shown that Whidden has stockpiled enough talent to keep the Buffs from falling into a rebuild mode, and the same should be true again next season despite the loss of the team’s top two scorers in seniors Miranda Stinson and Samantha Nemirov.
“When you lose great players you never really replace them, but other people step up in their own way,” Whidden said. “We have a team where our freshman and sophomore classes, they played a lot. They stepped up for us and they’re more than capable of doing that. We have a lot of potential and have a lot of players that can fill those roles. As long as we continue to have great leadership and our upperclassmen take on that role and continue the culture this program has, I think we’re going to be in a great place.”
CU loses only six seniors, but most notable will be the departures of Stinson and Nemirov along with Olivia Aschman, who started every game on defense. This spring, Stinson put together one of the top individual seasons in the program’s short history, collecting 64 goals and 80 points. Both totals rank as the second-highest single-season marks in team history.
Nemirov recorded 51 goals and 15 assists, finishing her career with a team-record 39-game points streak. The Buffs also are saying farewell to fifth-leading scorer Sophie Castillo, who posted 19 goals and eight assists.
Two underclassmen who played key roles on the attack this season could fill the ample scoring void left by Stinson and Nemirov. In her first season playing attack, sophomore Sadie Grozier finished third on the team with 36 goals and 10 assists. And freshman Charlie Rudy collected 26 goals, including a season-high five during the loss at Boston College.
“We’re proud of our fight. A month ago people didn’t think we’d make the tournament, and we were able to make it and make it to the second round,” Whidden said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t the result we wanted, but at the same time to have some perspective I think this experience playing against a great, talented BC team, that has some of the best players in the country, is going to make our team young better.
“Our freshmen and sophomores that were out there a lot are going to get better. Our junior class that is rising into the senior class is going to get stronger and their leadership will be stronger. It’s an invaluable experience that hopefully will carry over into the fall.”