In a tightly contested soccer game, every inch counts. If the ball sails an inch too high or a few inches too wide, that could be the difference between winning or losing the game. On Friday afternoon, despite a strong offensive effort, the University of Colorado soccer team couldn’t quite catch a break and settled for a 0-0 double overtime draw against the Arizona Wildcats at Prentup Field.
The game carried a great deal of weight in terms of both Pac-12 and NCAA postseason aspirations for the Buffs. Entering the game, Arizona held a narrow lead in the Pac-12 standings sitting at seventh place at 3-4-1, just ahead of CU’s 3-4 record. The Buffs needed a win to leapfrog the Wildcats. Instead, with a draw, CU remains behind Arizona in the Pac-12 standings. Even if CU closes out the season with wins against Arizona State and Utah, they may still need assistance from other teams in the Pac-12 to keep their postseason aspirations alive.
Although the Buffs may not have scored a goal today, CU still had one of its stronger offensive showings in recent weeks. At times this season, CU has struggled to get going early in the game, leading to opponents dominating control of the ball. While the Buffs didn’t have any standout scoring opportunities in the first half, CU generally controlled the ball and limited the Wildcats’ scoring chances.
The Buffs had a few potential chances in the first half including an opportunity off a corner kick in the twenty-fifth minute. Freshman defender Lawson Willis kicked the ball from the corner and the ball connected with the head of junior defender Hannah Sharts, but the ball drifted high over the goal. Sophomore midfielder Roo Yarnell-Williams also had a header chance of her own later in minute 36. That ball was easily saved though by Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey.
“We have talked a little bit this year about our slow starts and I thought that we started off great,” said head coach Danny Sanchez. “Creating chances, getting in the final third. They cleared one of (junior midfielder) Kayleigh (Webb’s) shots off the line in probably the first 10 minutes of the game. I thought we started great, but we didn’t take advantage of it, which is unfortunate.”
In the second half, the Buffs came roaring out of the break and quickly earned a free kick in minute 47. Senior midfielder Shanade Hopcroft took the free kick and it glided towards the goal and bounced off the head of freshman midfielder Shrya James. With the ball floating in the air, Sharts dashed from the right side of the field and attempted to redirect the ball towards the goal. Sharts wasn’t able to get a good touch on the ball as it sailed high over the net.
It was in the fifty-ninth minute that the Buffs came tantalizingly close to scoring a big goal. Off a corner kick, the ball hit at least three CU players and the goal post twice but refused to find the back of the net. The corner kick initially hit Sharts who headed the ball towards the goal. The ball was then tipped by sophomore forward Tessa Barton and it looked as though the shot would go in. Instead, it glanced off the top bar and bounced off a group of Arizona players to James who while falling down, accurately poked the ball to the left corner of the goal. The shot deflected off the left goalpost and was collected in between the legs of an Arizona defender to end the threat.
In the final 10 minutes of regulation, the Buffs continued to attack with two great chances both involving sophomore forward Kyla Ferry. In minute 82, a crossing pass from the right side of the field by James almost hit the head of a diving Ferry near the goal. However, the ball was just a little too far ahead of her. A few minutes later, Ferry got another chance with a header. This time she made contact and aimed towards the upper part of the net but Hisey left her feet and blocked the ball over the net.
“I thought that there were some players that haven’t played huge minutes this year that came off the bench and kept the level of play, and in some cases raised the level of play,” Sanchez said. “Kyla, (sophomore midfielder) Allie Palangi and (sophomore defender) Alyssa Duke, who haven’t had huge opportunities, I thought that they all came in and were solid.”
With neither side scoring a goal the match went to overtime. Neither side created any truly threatening chances until minute 108 when a diving Hansen blocked a shot away from the goal. The ball stayed in Arizona’s possession and was kicked out for another shot by Arizona’s Madison Goerlinger. This time Hansen slid over to the middle and stopped the shot with her outstretched leg. Colorado’s offense couldn’t get much going in overtime and the game ended with a scoreless draw.
Hansen’s 11 saves on the afternoon tied her season-high that came in another 0-0 draw against Washington on Feb. 26.
With today’s draw, CU’s remaining two games bring on an even greater level of significance.
“I don’t think that we are going to look at it as pressure or anything, but they definitely are must-wins,” Hopcroft said. “I am hoping that we take that on, pressure is privilege.”
The Buffs will have very little time to recover as they will host Arizona State at Prentup on Sunday at 1 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Matthew Lenneman at firstname.lastname@example.org.