The Colorado women’s soccer team missed the NCAA Tournament by the narrowest of margins last fall.
An untimely four-game losing streak that closed the regular season figured prominently in the Buffaloes missing the tourney field for just the second time in six seasons, but so did a nonconference schedule that proved too slight to bolster the Buffs’ RPI status.
Coach Danny Sanchez’s club will not have that problem this year. Along with standout seniors JJ Tompkins and Taylor Kornieck, Sanchez took the podium Saturday for CU’s annual preseason media day ready to hype a difficult 2019 slate that will offer the Buffs plenty of challenges.
Ten of the 20 regular-season games are against clubs that reached the 2018 NCAA Tournament, with five of those contests occurring during the nine-game nonconference slate. Included in that run is a Sept. 12 date at defending national champion Florida State and a Sept. 8 home match against Baylor, which reached the national quarterfinals last year.
“We had a very good season last year. Unfortunately it didn’t end the way we wanted, but we took the battle out of it this year with our strength of schedule,” Sanchez said. “It’s a challenging schedule, but we control our destiny this year.”
One nuance that changes on this year’s soccer schedule is a hiatus on the annual Colorado Cup played between CU and the state’s five other Division I programs — Colorado State, Colorado College, Air Force, Northern Colorado, and Denver. While the Buffs host Northern Colorado and visits DU, CU will not play CSU for the first time since the Rams program was launched in 2014. There also will not be the annual triple-header played between the six Colorado rivals at Prentup Field.
“The Colorado Cup has a lot of positives — the event with the Special Olympics, and the Sunday at Prentup that we have all six Division I teams on the field — but as we looked at it, and all the coaches looked at it, we want to make it more of a special event,” Sanchez said. “Spread it out and don’t do it every year or you lose a little luster. And to be honest, the RPI is an issue after last year, but we already planned not to do it this year.”
Sanchez confirmed his club suffered a late defection from its roster, as Emily Groark opted to leave the CU program to transfer to St. Louis. Groark remained with the Buffs program through the spring semester and also took part in the team’s trip to France earlier this summer before informing Sanchez of her decision.
Groark tied a CU record for assists by a freshman last year with seven while playing in 19 of 20 games. The move sends Groark closer to her hometown of St. Peters, Missouri.
Off and running
Though his teams do not begin official workouts for several weeks yet, venerable cross country coach Mark Wetmore took the podium to offer his thoughts on the upcoming season. Last year the CU women won the national championship behind individual champ Dani Jones, but with Jones and Kaitlyn Benner having graduated, the Buffs’ balance of power might shift to a men’s team led by John Dressel and Joe Klecker.
Yet Wetmore said some of the younger women’s runners might be ready to keep the Buffs in their lofty perch nationally.
“There are some good people back from that (women’s) team,” Wetmore said. “There are some good people who were waiting on the shelf a year ago. We might be a pretty good team.”
The soccer team’s annual Black and Gold scrimmage will be held Aug. 17…For the second straight year, Kornieck was named to the preseason watch list for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top women’s soccer player in the nation. Kornieck enters her senior season ranked fourth in CU history in goals (27), third in assists (18), and fourth in points (72).