Traveling to France during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup obviously was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Colorado women’s soccer team.
The Buffaloes returned to Boulder last week after winning all three of their exhibition matches, though a European club circuit that typically ends in mid-May, combined with World Cup fever, left the Buffs facing competition that wasn’t exactly up to Pac-12 Conference standards.
Still, a Buffs team still reeling from narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament last fall did what it is expected to do against winnable foes, defeating the three opponents by a combined 19-0. Some new faces got into the mix, a dependable veteran made a big step in her injury comeback, and the Buffs were able to make a lifetime of memories on and off the pitch.
“The soccer piece is important, but it’s not the overriding reason (for the trip),” CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. “The teams’ seasons there are over in the middle of May, late May. But we played well. Like I told the team, a goal is a goal. I thought we scored some good goals. I thought we played well. We came out of it healthy and everyone got a lot of playing time. It was good to get three extra games in.”
While familiar faces flashed their usual form in France — 2019 senior Tatum Barton scored seven of the Buffs’ 19 goals — Sanchez also was able to utilize his roster liberally. Only three of the Buffs’ incoming freshmen made the trip (NCAA clearinghouse issues kept the others off the trip following mid-to-late June high school graduations) but one of them, promising forward Kyla Ferry from Phoenix, notched a pair of goals in the opener. Additionally defender Hannah Cardenas, who played in only three games in 2018 before season-ending knee surgery, played without restraint in France.
Off the field, the Buffs indulged in all the requisite sightseeing stops when visiting Paris, including trips to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Yet for a bunch of soccer junkies, the off-the-field highlight might have been the two World Cup games the Buffs attended.
One was the United States’ 13-0 rout of Thailand. The other was a 3-2 victory by Australia that saw the victors rally from a 2-0 deficit in a must-win situation. Sanchez hopes watching that sort of stirring rally will provide a potential moment of inspiration for the Buffs.
“Getting to go to World Cup games live, being in that environment, that’s special,” Sanchez said. “And I think we went to one of the best games of the World Cup. Brazil was up 2-0 and Australia had to win, and they come back to go up 3-2 late. That was a great to watch. And then most of the players except one or two had never been to Paris, so to be able to see the sights was special. You may never get that opportunity again. I don’t think it ever hits you at the time, but when you can step back and you have time to reflect on it I think you appreciate it a little bit more than when you’re in the moment kind of running around every day.”