It was simply a first audition, yet it certainly was an impressive one for the Colorado women’s soccer team.
Hosting Weber State in the first CU athletic event of 2022-23, the Buffaloes kicked off their season with a resounding 5-0 victory against Weber State on Thursday at Prentup Field.
CU blitzed the Wildcats with three goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half, received two goals from 2021 top goal scorer Shyra James, and scored twice on corner kicks as four different players scored goals for the Buffs. CU had posted just one game with as many as four goals over the previous two seasons, and Thursday’s scoring output was the Buffs’ top offensive performance since a 6-0 win against Northern Colorado in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
“The first game without an exhibition, it’s always going to be a fistfight,” CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. “Credit to Weber State. This game wasn’t a lot different than the spring of COVID year (a 1-0 CU win). The second half I thought we played really well. I thought our depth really took over.”
A unique boot from Rachel Rosen got the Buffs on the board late in the first half, as the sophomore midfielder curled a corner kick directly into the far corner of the Weber State goal to give CU a 1-0 lead at halftime.
After the break, the Buffs quickly broke open the match. James scored twice in a span of 3 minutes, 24 seconds, first converting off a centering pass from Jade Babcock-Chi before heading home another goal off a corner kick from Amaya Gonzalez. After leading the Buffs in goals the past two seasons, including nine last year, James now owns 16 goals in her career. Just one game into her senior season, that mark ties Jen Thais and Danica Evans for 10th in program history.
CU’s highly touted freshman class then got in on the scoring. Former Legacy High star Juliauna Hayward, who just two months ago was named the BoCoPreps girls soccer player of the year, was the only freshman in the starting lineup and recorded her first collegiate goal in the 65th minute. Freshman Emerson Layne capped the scoring on a penalty kick with 1:46 remaining.
“There was two that I missed earlier that I could’ve made as well,” Hayward said. “I was just like, ‘I’m going to score a goal this (second) half. I feel it.’ I came in really confident. The first half was a little off for me, first game jitters. The second half I was like, ‘I got this.’ That goal was a high note for me.”
The scoring blitz after halftime allowed Sanchez to substitute freely during the second half, giving what largely is a veteran starting lineup a chance for extra rest ahead of Sunday’s home date against San Diego (1 p.m.). A defense featuring an experienced goalie in Dani Hansen and two graduate seniors in Hannah Sharts and Hannah Cardenas likely will remain the strength of the team, but Thursday’s season debut offered a possible snapshot at an improved, more versatile CU attack.
“I feel like in practice, we have more goal-scoring there,” James said. “We’re excited to bring what we can show on the field at practice to our audience. I feel like we have a lot of opportunities, a lot of players that will be in right positions. I see a lot of goals coming and I see a championship in the future.”
Colorado 5, Weber State 0
Weber State 0 0 — 0
Colorado 1 4 — 5
Goals — Colorado: Rosen, 39th minute; James (Babcock-Chi), 52nd minute; James (Gonzalez), 55th minute; Hayward (Phoenix), 65th minute; Emerson Layne (PK), 89th minute.
Goalies (Minutes-saves- goals allowed) — Weber State (Moss 90-4-5); Colorado (Hansen 63-4-0; Grust 27-1-0).