CU reaches third round of the NCAA’s for the first time in program history
Snow and rain fell on a slippery Prentup Field as the CU women’s soccer team knocked the University of Denver out of the NCAA championship tournament Sunday afternoon.
Players were visibly soaked, with water dripping from their hair and jerseys, as the temperature approached freezing. The game was tied with just over 10 minutes left. Freshman Nikki Marshall scored the game winner at 79:38, leaving the final score 2-1. Now, CU moves on to the third round of the tournament for the first time in Head Coach Bill Hempen’s career at Boulder.
“I tapped it right before the goalie and I saw it was going to hit the post, so I just followed it,” Marshall said of her goal.
The ball slipped past DU goalkeeper Dani Wiley on Marshall’s first hit, but she had to hit it again to ensure it went into the net.
Coach Hempen said he was happy with the enthusiasm of his players, especially following a tough first-round game on Friday.
They just knew what was at stake and they laid it all out there. It was a great show for what women can do in an athletic contest,” Hempen said. “They fought for this opportunity, and I’m really, really proud of their effort today.”
CU controlled most of the first half and didn’t allow a shot on goal for the first 40 minutes. They led 1-0 at halftime on a penalty kick goal by Katie Griffin.
DU came out strong in the second half and made it difficult for CU to clear the ball out of their defensive end.
“I don’t think we put enough pressure on them in the first half. We gave them a lot of room and a lot of space,” DU Head Coach Jeff Hooker said. “That was something we were able to solve in the second half. The first half and the second half for us were day and night.”
DU senior Lleane Grimditch tied the game with under 15 minutes remaining on a free kick that sailed past everyone and into the far side of the net.
“I was just trying to put it up there to see if anyone could make anything of it,” Grimditch said.
The goal meant CU had to react quickly to avoid overtime.
“We didn’t really do anything tactically to change, we just kept fighting,” Hempen said. “That was what it was going to take, and the kids did a great job.”
Despite the weather, fans came out in large numbers and almost all of them stayed and cheered until the Buffs were victorious.
“It’s so important (to have the fans). It’s hard enough in the regular season to go on the road, but when the stakes are this high, it’s even more difficult,” Hempen said.
The Buffs will likely go to Notre Dame for their next game.
“It’s such a big step for us as a program, no doubt,” Hempen said.