There figured to be some humbling days for the Colorado women's lacrosse program as coach Ann Elliott attempts to build a winner in Boulder.
The first of those days arrived Wednesday when the 18th-ranked Denver Pioneers dominated CU in a 15-4 win in the first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation game between the schools.
Denver was undefeated on its home field last season and also swept through the MPSF regular season undefeated. The Pioneers return eight starters and 14 letter winners from that team giving them a significant experience and confidence advantage over a CU team mostly made up of freshman and it showed in the first 15 minutes.
"That was a big difference today in our team," CU coach Ann Elliott said. "Our kids have to continue to believe in themselves and have the confidence. We came out a little shaky offensively and played a little bit back on our heels. It hurt us but that's easy to fix as long as they continue to believe in themselves."
It was the season opener for the Pioneers and the third game of the season for the Buffs who went 1-1 in Florida last week in games against Stetson and Jacksonville.
Denver took control early scoring less than 3 minutes in when Meredith Harris finished off a run from one end of the field to the other putting the ball past CU goalie Paige Soenksen on an unassisted goal. Denver scored seven goals in the first half, including two from Rachael McKinnon who led the Pioneers with four in the game.
Monica Lucas also registered a hat trick from the Pioneers with two of her three goals coming after halftime.
Denver scored 13 of its 15 goals at even strength and out-shot the Buffs 33-18.
CU freshman Cali Castagnola scored late in the first half, but it was disallowed because of an illegal stick. The scoring player's stick is checked by the officials after each goal in women's lacrosse. An illegal stick is one where the ball drops completely below the edge of basket when pressure is applied.
"We came out we played hard and we were able to get draws early on," Elliott said. "We just weren't able to execute on offense. That's a main focus. If we can have possession of the ball, we're going to have opportunities to compete."
Colorado looked to be headed for its first shutout midway through the second half. It had produced few quality scoring chances to that point, but Katie Carroll, a product of Arnold, Md., finally got the ball into the DU net past backup goalie Maddy Stevenson with 7 minutes, 38 seconds remaining.
Johnna Fusco followed Carroll's goal with a second CU tally less than 2 minutes later. Marie Moore added two more goals for the Buffs in the final 5 minutes.
Carroll and Moore said they learned a lot from playing against a veteran team positioned in the national rankings. They said one of their biggest challenges is learning to handle the defensive pressure when they're in the offensive end.
"I think we did very good on the draw controls, winning the draw controls," Moore said . "I think we just have to settle it down and when the pressure comes, be able to handle it.
"I think we know now, obviously being in this conference, pressure is going to come at us and I think we're prepared and we'll be prepared for the next game."
Carroll said the Buffs viewed Wednesday's game as an opportunity to learn from a more experienced team and players who have been through full college seasons and postseason play.
"Being a new program, we definitely are going to play against some teams that have that experience and have that older aspect to their team," Carroll said. "We just try to focus on ourselves and almost learn from them and take their confidence and try to use it to when we play other teams."