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Fortuitous bounce goes Buffs’ way in CU soccer’s opening win against Denver

New-look Buffs outlast Pioneers on OT own-goal

BOULDER, CO - February 6, 2021: Colorado's Roo Yarnell-Williams gets her head on the ball in front of two Pioneers during the Colorado-Denver soccer game in Boulder on February 6, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – February 6, 2021: Colorado’s Roo Yarnell-Williams gets her head on the ball in front of two Pioneers during the Colorado-Denver soccer game in Boulder on February 6, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Given the combination of new faces in the lineup and the long-delayed start to what officially remains the 2020 season, Colorado women’s soccer coach Danny Sanchez admitted he wasn’t certain what to expect out of the Buffaloes in their season opener.

And indeed, much of Saturday’s rivalry showdown between the Buffs and the University of Denver featured two talented teams certainly not yet playing at the form likely to arrive later in the season. Perhaps fittingly, the first match of a strange 2020 season being played in early 2021 ended bizarrely, with a Denver-own goal off a deflected crossing pass giving CU a season-opening 1-0 overtime victory at Prentup Field.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” Sanchez said. “But then looking at it two hours later, it was probably what we expected. It was a little choppy I felt at the beginning for us. I thought we were a little impatient. But I thought as the game went on I thought our players started to feel more comfortable. Denver is a very good team. That’s a team that’s going to win the Summit League. They’re going to be in the NCAA Tournament.”

After a scoreless 90 minutes, CU defender Sofia Weiner sent a long crossing pass into the DU penalty area that struck the leg of Pioneers defender Taylor Parker. DU goalie Nerea Arrazola had been tracking Weiner’s cross to the far post, and she had little chance of reversing her momentum in time when the deflection rolled inside the near post.

Playing their first game since the graduation of two of the CU program’s all-time top performers in Taylor Kornieck and goalie JJ Tompkins, Sanchez gave starting assignments to three true freshmen in defender Lawson Willis, forward Shyra James, and midfielder Rachel Rosen, in addition to Shanade Hopcroft, a transfer from UCCS who was playing her first Division I game.

In goal, the Buffs turned to Monarch alum Dani Hansen, who spent the previous two seasons at Washington. Hansen finished with six saves. Willis, from Cherry Creek High School, filled in for injured junior Hannah Cardenas. Sanchez said Cardenas should return by the start of Pac-12 Conference play “and maybe sooner” from an undisclosed injury.

“It’s been great competition with our goalkeepers,” Sanchez said. “Obviously Dani has a little bit of experience and I thought she was very solid today. She didn’t have a lot to deal with in shot-blocking, but she dealt with the crosses. I think it was good for her to get 90 minutes under her belt, but that competition is going to continue through this next week.”

It was the Buffs’ eighth consecutive win against DU, and for a young team that doesn’t have much time to prep for the challenges of Pac-12 play, the positive result, fortuitous or not, could provide CU with a huge jolt of confidence.

“Denver is a great team, so we’ll take any kind of win against them,” CU junior defender Hannah Sharts said. “Especially this season with COVID. Everything is just so unpredictable that you really have to be fortunate for every game. Even though we got lucky with an own-goal in this one, we’ll take any win we can get. It definitely can help us later on in the standings when things are close. Props to them. They fought really hard today and gave us a hard time. But we’re just really happy that we came out with a win.”

Colorado 1, Denver 0 (OT)

Denver (0-1)     0 0 0 — 0

Colorado (1-0) 0 0 1 — 1

Goals — DU own goal, 97th minute. Goalies (Min-GA-Sv) — Denver: Arrazola (97-1-5); Colorado: Hansen (97-0-6).