It seems like it has been an eternity since Taylor Kornieck and JJ Tompkins, two of the all-time greats with the Colorado women’s soccer program, last laced up their cleats for the Buffaloes.
In many ways it has been, as the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the entire world into chaos since the completion of the 2019 college soccer season. Still, the Buffs haven’t played a game since Kornieck and Tompkins’ final appearance more than 14 months ago, but that finally will change on Saturday as the Buffs begin their long-delayed 2020 season against the University of Denver on the 37th day of 2021.
“It’s a unique situation, but as far as our players, I’m proud of the mentality they’ve kept. Back when we got here in August, we thought we’d be playing in September,” said CU head coach Danny Sanchez, set to begin his ninth season leading the Buffs. “They’ve kept a positive outlook and we’ve had great leadership. They’re obviously excited to go.
“In the fall, everything was start and stop and we never really got into a rhythm. We couldn’t play 11 a side and there were all these restrictions. It’s been great just to get out there and train. It’s unique in that it actually was longer than a normal preseason that we have, but we’ve had to be cognizant of the fact that players haven’t played in well over a year. So you have to be cognizant to not do too much too early.”
The team that walked off the field at North Carolina after a second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 22, 2019 will look much different on Saturday.
Gone are Kornieck, who finished her four-year career as the Buffs’ all-time leader in assists and points before becoming the No. 3 overall pick in the NWSL draft, and Tompkins, a four-year starter at goalkeeper who ended her career as CU’s all-time leader in save percentage and wins.
In goal, Sanchez said his team has featured a three-player competition between a pair of redshirt freshmen, Emma Miller and Megan Short, as well as Monarch graduate Dani Hansen, who transferred to CU from Washington.
On the attack, the Buffs are hoping players like sophomores Tessa Barton and Roo Yarnell-Williams, along with fourth-year junior Libby Geraghty, are ready to take the next step in hopes of replacing Kornieck, who accounted for a third of CU’s goals and 20 percent of the Buffs’ assists in 2019.
“I think (goalkeeper) is wide-open, and I don’t think that’s going to be solved until probably we get into Pac-12 play,” Sanchez said. “If somebody takes it and puts a stranglehold on it, that’s one thing. But if you look at training, that hasn’t been the case yet. The sum of the parts are going to have to be better because you’re not going to replace a player like (Kornieck). She’s a generational player and those players don’t come around every year. But we feel we have players in-house who are healthy that will compete. We definitely have more depth, and we definitely have more competition.”
Denver Pioneers at CU Buffs women’s soccer
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon, Prentup Field.
BROADCAST: Colorado Live Stream (pac-12.com/live/cubuffs)
RECORDS (2019): Denver 12-4-4; Colorado 12-8-2.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS (2019 stats): Denver — F Sami Feller, Jr. (8 goals, 2 assists); F Natalie Beckman, Jr. (4 goals, 6 assists); F Camryn MacMillan, Jr. (5 goals, 2 assists). Colorado — F Tessa Barton, So. (5 goals, 3 assists); F Libby Geraghty, R-Jr. (4 goals, 1 assist); MF Roo Yarnell-Williams, So. (4 goals); D Gabbi Chapa, Sr. (1 goal, 3 assists).
NOTES: The Buffs elected four co-captains for this season — defender Gabbi Chapa, a senior, along with juniors Libby Geraghty, Sofia Weiner, and Hannah Sharts. Chapa (Doherty High School), Weiner (Evergreen), and Geraghty (Cherry Creek) all are Colorado natives…The Buffs are aiming to play a 16-game schedule with 11 Pac-12 games. CU is scheduled to play two of its league foes twice — Washington and Utah — with the additional contests to be played as nonconference games…Geraghty and Barton scored the goals in CU’s last meeting against DU, a 2-0 Buffs win on Sept. 21, 2019…CU leads the all-time series against the Pioneers 16-8-1 with eight consecutive wins…The Buffs’ next schedule match is Feb. 13 at home against Northern Colorado.