BLOCK – 2022 season just days away from departure and Colorado lacrosse coach Ann Elliot Whidden is happy with her team’s position heading into Friday, Feb. 11’s opener against Louisville.
“It’s a focused group that is committed to working hard every day and trying to improve and playing for each other,” she said. “We learned a lot about our position against a very good team from our scrimmage against Northwestern. We know what we need to do to prepare to play and compete.”
One of the biggest questions surrounding the squad might be about the goalkeeper position. In Colorado’s eight seasons as an NCAA program, the Buffaloes have had two starting guards: Paige Soenkson (2014-17) and Julia Liselle (2018-21). Now entering the ninth season, that position is up for grabs and Whidden says it’s been a competition between the three goaltenders on CU’s roster: Year Two Danielle Heintzjunior Grace Donnelly and senior Molly Galloway.
“It was exactly that, a competition,” Whidden said. “It’s been really great because the three of them push each other and challenge each other every day. All three want to play. It’s going to be a tough decision for us.”
Something that won’t be difficult for Whidden and her team to determine her offense as top scorer, including Sadie Grozier, a fifth-year athlete, returns to the roster. Grozier has played and started in all but one game for the Buffs in 2021 and has scored 39 goals and added 13 assists to lead CU with 52 points. charlie rudy led the Buffs last season with 45 goals despite missing the last two games through injury.
During the offseason, Whidden added another fifth-year forward, Sam McGee. McGee played four seasons at Saint Joseph’s and is enrolled in graduate school. She played 49 games with the Hawks and scored 85 goals and added 31 assists for 116 points.
The Buffs are also bringing back three more fifth-year players on defense, Devon Bayer, Macaul Mellor and Aine Williams. The experiences that these five athletes have with this extra time brings something more to the Buffs.
“We’re a group that has experience, we just have to go out there and put that into action,” Whidden said. “They’ve grown in so many different ways here on the pitch off the pitch throughout their time here.”
The freshmen are always looking to make an impact on the team and are vying for a spot in the roster. This year is no different with the six freshmen who joined the Buffaloes in August.
“Our freshmen have had some good experience, since the fall and last month, and they’ve shown they’re ready to compete at this level,” Whidden said. “They’re excited to compete. They’re up to the challenge. It’s a really fun training atmosphere for us.”
The Buffs have 16 games scheduled this season and nine of them will be at Kittredge Field. In fact, four of the first five games will be at home for CU.
“There are huge benefits for us in terms of limited distractions when we’re on the road, being together and bonding,” Whidden explained. “But everybody likes to play at home and we like to play here at Boulder. So for us to be able to start this season at home, which we haven’t necessarily been able to do for the last four years or so, and have a spending some good quality time at home is really exciting for us I think our players are excited to be playing they are excited to be back to some sort of normalcy although we know any day can cause anything or a cancellation here, they’re just back this year and ready to compete.”
The first game of this season is against Louisville, against which Colorado opened the season in 2021. After the slow start to 2021, the Buffaloes know that cannot be the case this year.
“We’re excited to play against good teams that are competing at high levels in their conferences and are competitive for us,” Whidden said. “I don’t think we’re too focused on exactly who we’re playing. I think we’re focused on getting off to a better start than last year.
“We know we struggled, we know we could have done a better job. We feel like we have a bit more experience this year. We’re going to be better prepared than we were last year. last season.”
Once the Buffaloes get through the first five games, they will begin Pac-12 Conference play, in which Colorado was picked to finish second by league coaches. The conference has continued to improve each year and Whidden believes that trend will continue this year.
“I think the Pac-12 is going to be a solid conference all the way,” she said. “We were excited about it last year, but with Covid it was difficult. Schools had different restrictions in terms of practicing. But it has helped us grow in many ways and I think everyone is on track to come back after that.
“Stanford are going to be a strong team,” Whidden continued. “They have a great class of freshmen. They have a great class of sophomores where some of them were wearing red shirts, so they’re going to be strong all the way. USC and Arizona State are two teams against which we fought and broke up these games are going to be great again and then Oregon and Cal I think have had really great seasons although maybe the records haven’t Oregon has faced a lot of Covid issues. But they’ve been strong in a lot of their games and been in our conference and they’re still an uphill battle and they’re an uphill battle in Eugene. I think Cal is a very good team that was playing very well at the end of the season and very easily could have ended this season with four good wins.”
The first step to start the season on the right foot will be against the Louisville Cardinals this Friday at 3 p.m. Free entry. It’s the season opener for the two, who will meet for the second time. The other time was the 2021 season opener at Louisville where the Cardinals came away with a 12-9 victory.
This year, the Buffaloes will be looking for their own home-court advantage; something Kittredge Field is known for as CU is 41-11 (.789) there.
Links to live stats, stream, rosters and more are available at www.CUBuffs.com/LaxGameday.