Ann Elliott stayed away from setting a target number of wins for her first year as Colorado's women's lacrosse coach because she didn't want to put any limits in the minds of her players.

The philosophy appears to have worked well for the Buffaloes who finished third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season standings (10-7 overall, 6-3 MPSF), despite a team loaded with freshman and two sophomores.

In a season of firsts, the Buffs will add their first postseason tournament game Thursday at 4 p.m. at the University of Denver where they will play San Diego State to start the MPSF tournament. The winner will take on No. 18 Stanford on Friday at 7 p.m.

The Buffs are coming off a win at Oregon on Sunday that Elliott said was the most complete outing of the season with the team playing together on both ends of the field and in transition.

"We're excited about where we're at, but in all honesty at this point, that's all behind," Elliott said. "I enjoyed that for a little bit after Oregon, but now our focus is on trying to be successful and take advantage of the opportunity we have in our conference tournament and see what we can do here."

Freshman Johnna Fusco has earned many of the headlines this season as an offensive force for the Buffs. She received her third MPSF Rookie of the Week award this week. But it's difficult to imagine the Buffs being the third seed in the conference tournament in their first year of competition without the contributions of sophomore Sarah Lautman, the only member of CU's team who came from the CU club lacrosse program.


Lautman has scored three game-winning goals in overtime this season, including last week's victory at Oregon and a win over San Diego State. Lautman said the Aztecs are a team that plays hard and has plenty of playmakers. She said the Buffs will have to be at their best to advance Thursday.

"I think it's definitely an exciting time," she said. "Any team wants to make it to the tournament. We've been working very hard and this has been our goal all season. Every game we come out here and we want to extend our season as far as we can go. Being able to do that is awesome. Whether it's your first year or your 10th year, you want to be able to do that."

The Buffs have clearly turned heads around college women's lacrosse with the success they have enjoyed in their first season. Have they overachieved?

"I don't know," Elliott said. "I guess everyone probably has their own opinions on that. From the onset here with this team I've said I have no expectations. We wanted to go in just trying to get better and see what we can do.

"We've been successful in our minds in terms of getting better every day and competing and never giving up. That's what I'm proud of."

Lautman figures the intensity will be ratcheted up another notch or two when Thursday's game begins and in each successive postseason game because a loss ends the season. The Buffs inexperience hasn't prevented them from producing one of the most successful debut seasons in the history of the MPSF. Lautman figures the Buffs can handle whatever the playoffs feel like.

"It definitely puts a little more worth on the game," she said. "You want to win more, but I think it is more exciting in that way because it is a different kind of feeling. It's a different outcome obviously if you lose. You're done and none of us want the season to end."