Over the course of a season, a handful of games may mimic the atmosphere of a playoff game. In many ways, that was true on Sunday as the University of Colorado soccer team visited the Oregon Ducks. Following a tough 2-0 loss to a struggling Oregon State Beavers team on Friday night, CU fell to the bottom half of the Pac-12 standings. With only three games after Sunday, and the NCAA tournament being reduced to just 48 teams this year, a win against the Ducks was imperative to keep the Buffs’ postseason dreams alive.
Entering the game, Oregon and CU appeared to be two teams on completely different trajectories. With a record of 3-0-3 in their last 6 games, the Ducks were a team riding high. That six-game run included draws against two of the best teams in the conference in Stanford and Arizona State. The Buffs, on the other hand, were riding a two-game losing streak with an offense that was sputtering. Before the start of the game, the Buffs hadn’t managed to score a goal in the last 272 minutes of soccer. The last goal scored by the team was in the early minutes of the Utah game on March 20.
Regardless of what was true before the game, the Buffs flipped the script on the Ducks as a second half goal by sophomore forward Tessa Barton snapped CU’s scoring drought and propelled the Buffs to a big 1-0 victory. The win moved the Buffs to 7-5-1 overall and 3-4-1 in the Pac-12. Oregon fell to 5-4-4 and 3-3-2 in conference play.
“It is tough to come on the road and get results as we all know,” said head coach Danny Sanchez. “When you look at the last few games and you really look at the Pac-12 standings, and NCAA implications I mean it is just all over the place. All we can do is control what we control, and I think that we control our destiny. We needed to get a result today and we need to get results at home next weekend.”
The first half of the game was similar to most of the Buffs’ previous game against OSU as the team labored to produce opportunities while the Ducks controlled the ball. CU was unable to create chances near the goal and instead opted to fire a few long-range shots largely to no avail. Shots from distance by Barton and senior midfielder Shanade Hopcroft in the 24th and 25th minute seemed to pose little threat to the Ducks.
Oregon, meanwhile, had a handful of great scoring opportunities with an especially dangerous chance in minute 27. On an Oregon corner kick, the ball went slightly short and sophomore goalkeeper Dani Hansen left the net to try and grab the ball. Hansen wasn’t able to secure the ball, which was knocked towards the middle where Oregon’s Chardonnay Curran fired the ball towards the goal that was now lacking a goalkeeper. The Buffs got a lucky break though, as the ball hit hard off the middle of the crossbar and bounced right into the hands of Hansen to end the threat.
In the second half, the Buffs showed more life on the offensive end. In the 52nd minute, senior defender Haileigh Adams sprinted down the left side of the field and sent a crossing pass into the middle. The ball hit senior forward Libby Geraghty who had a good look on goal, but couldn’t quite get her foot under her and the ball went high over the net.
Finally, in the 64th minute of action, the Buffs put an end to their multiple-game scoring drought. Geraghty got the ball in the box and kicked the ball towards Hopcroft. The ball went past Hopcroft though and found the leg of a charging Barton who sent the ball to the left part of the goal. Oregon’s goalkeeper Leah Freeman almost got her hands on the ball, but she couldn’t prevent the ball from entering the net. The goal was Barton’s first of the season and gave the Buffs a 1-0 lead.
“I thought today that her (Barton’s) movement was very good, obviously scoring the goal,” said Sanchez. “It’s tough to get goals in this league and she had one great chance and she buried it, so really proud of her for sticking to it and finding that goal and working hard for us.”
For the remainder of the game, CU’s defense stood tall and continuously held off a motivated Oregon attack. In the closing seconds, Hansen knocked one last desperate attempt by the Ducks away, allowing the Buffs to secure the 1-0 win. The play was the bow on yet another fantastic performance in the net by Hansen. In total, Hansen saved seven shots on the afternoon. She has now saved six or more shots in eight games this season, tied with former goalie Jalen (JJ) Tompkins for the most by a Buffs’ goalkeeper in a single season since 2000.
CU will return home to Prentup field for its final three regular season matches looking to keep its postseason aspirations alive. On Friday, the Buffs host Arizona at 2:30 p.m. MST followed by a Sunday contest against Arizona State, who is currently in second place in the Pac-12, at 1 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Matthew Lenneman at firstname.lastname@example.org.