Easter Sunday could have been memorable for the players and coaches in the fledgling Colorado women's lacrosse program.
The Buffs hosted Cal in the final regular season home game of the program's inaugural season with a chance to lock up a berth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament. The Buffs lacked energy at times after taking an early lead and never took control of a winnable game losing 7-6 to the Bears.
The loss snapped the Buffs' three game winning streak. It was just the second home loss of the season for CU.
It didn't take long in the postgame interview with CU coach Ann Elliott for it to become clear she was disappointed in how her team performed in its final outing on Kittredge Field. With the Bears still whooping and hollering on the field in the background, Elliott spoke bluntly.
"I think you can tell by their excitement that this game meant a lot more to them than it meant to us for some reason," Elliott said. "We've got to figure out how to come out with a purpose, how to come out with that type of intensity.
"They had it today. Cal played great. They played hard all over the field and they wanted it. You know, we didn't have that."
Elliott said she believes her team has done enough to be included in the MPSF tournament, but it definitely cost itself in seeding by losing Sunday and will face a harder draw. The Buffs first must close out the regular season in Oregon next Sunday.
The Buffs are a surprising fourth in the MPSF standings even after Sunday's setback at 9-7 overall and 5-3 in league play. It is one of the best inaugural seasons in league history. The Buffs have earned one more victory already than Southern California did in its first season last year.
And several of the Buffs acknowledged they might have been happy with where they stood prior to Sunday, which contributed to the loss to the Bears (5-10, 3-5)
"I definitely think we maybe underestimated them," CU's leading goal scorer Cali Castagnola said. "They were a good team."
The Buffs took a lead less than three minutes into the game when Castagnola scored on a free position shot. CU held the lead until midway through the first half when Michaela Bird scored her only goal of the day for the Bears on an assist from Paige Gasparino. Less than 3 minutes later, Gaby Christman gave Cal the lead on a free position shot.
Colorado tied it 2-2 with 7 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the half on the first of Johnna Fusco's three goals in the game. But Christman gave Cal the lead for good at the 4:41 mark with an unassisted goal past CU goaltender Paige Soenksen, who made 11 saves in the game.
Soenksen's counterpart at the other end of the field, Katie Gutierrez, was tough throughout. She made six saves, including several key stops that led to empty possessions for the Buffs in the final 10 minutes as they attempted another rally. Two of the Buffs' previous three wins came in overtime against USC and San Diego State.
"I thought she played really well," Elliott said. "We watched film of the last few games Cal has played in Michigan and down in Denver and she had been playing really well. So we knew that coming in. Hats off to her. She did a good job today."
A little more than three minutes into the second half, Cal took another two-goal lead on an unassisted tally from Gasparino. From that point forward, the teams exchanged goals the rest of the way. CU would cut it to one and Cal would push it back to two.
"I feel like as a team, we just couldn't bring it together and that's what we need to do in those situations," Fusco said. "Coming from USC and SDSU, I think our heads were just not in the right place for this game."