Hundreds packed Kittredge field for the University of Colorado Boulder’s lacrosse home opener as the Buffs (0-3 overall) hosted the No. 10 University of Denver Pioneers (3-0) Saturday afternoon. The Buffaloes fell to the Pioneers 9-8 after a failed comeback attempt in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
“I think we’re lacking the intensity that we need to win in spots,” said Head Coach Ann Elliott Whidden. “Defensively, we’re having mental lapses and offensively, we’re not playing with a lot of purpose. We’re expecting things to just be easy down there and it’s cost us now three games.”
The Buffs were ranked No. 25 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) preseason rankings, but after back-to-back losses on the road, Colorado was quickly removed from the ranking. The Buffs saw an overtime loss against Vanderbilt and a blow-out loss against the Louisville Cardinals, 12-5.
Despite the Buffs being winless, Charlie Rudy and Sam McGee both tallied hat tricks. Rudy had her third against the Pioneers, recording a hat trick in every game of the season thus far. The fifth-year attacker scored four goals and added two assists. McGee put up three goals and one assist. Both of Rudy’s assists set up McGee’s goals, while McGee returned the favor with her only assist coming from a Rudy goal. The dynamic duo made up most of Colorado’s goals, with the final coming from Ashley Stokes.
The Buffs had very concentrated goal scorers, while Denver’s were spread evenly among six players. DU’s Julia Gilbert also recorded a hat trick for the Pioneers.
The first quarter was dominated by the Pioneers scoring three unanswered goals. Denver hit the scoreboard first with a goal scored 5:35 into game-play. Less than three minutes later, the Pioneers struck again. Denver’s final quarter goal came in the last nine seconds of the quarter. Offensively, Colorado struggled to convert their opportunities going 0-5 on free position attempts.
Colorado didn’t settle and scored right out of the gates. Rudy’s first goal was just over a minute into the second quarter. Less than a minute later, Rudy set up a break around the crease for McGee, who turned quickly and shot into the back of the net. The Buffs slimmed the margin to 3-2, but it didn’t hold for long. The Pioneers scored back-to-back unassisted goals putting them at a three-goal advantage of 5-2. With three minutes remaining in the half, McGee scored her second goal unassisted, keeping the Buffs within reach. Once again, Denver answered with a goal in the final 10 seconds of the quarter. The half ended with the Pioneers leading 6-3.
After a brief intermission, Denver came out matching their first-half pace. Right off the bat, the Pioneers’ Raegan Wilson scored Denver’s seventh. Colorado and Denver exchanged goals for the remainder of the quarter. The third quarter concluded with the Buffs trailing by four, 9-5.
Denve’s offense was strumming along until the fourth quarter when everything changed. Colorado entered the fourth with their best offensive play this season. Rudy added her third goal off a corner shot two minutes into the quarter. Four minutes later, on a Buffs’ advantage, McGeescored her third for her hat trick boosting the Buffs within a two-goal deficit. With less than 1:30 left in the game, Rudy scored off of a free position opportunity. The Buffaloes had a man-up advantage for the remainder of the game but turned the ball over to the Pioneers.
Denver called a timeout with 25 seconds left and ran out the clock.
“Hopefully our team’s mindset was that we could still win,” said Whidden. “We were one play away. We got four stops on defense in under four minutes to get us the ball back. We got the draw we needed at the end of the game. We’ve just got to find a way to execute better offensively in those moments that matter.”
The Buffs are looking forward to March 3 against the Michigan Wolverines when Colorado looks to right the ship after three straight defeats to open the campaign. The Buffaloes and Wolverines will face off on Kittredge Field Friday, March 3, at 3 p.m.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Malaina Humphreys at Malaina.Humphreys@colorado.edu.