2014 Colorado Buffaloes soccer
Head coach: Danny Sanchez, 3rd season (22-15-6 at CU, 289-75-29 career)
Last year: 14-7-2, 4-5-2 Pac-12; Lost to Florida State in third round (Sweet 16) of the NCAA Tournament
Key players: MF Carly Bolyard, Sr.; F Brie Hooks, So.; D Alex Huynh, So.; MF Darcy Jerman, Sr.; D Bianca Jones, Sr.; F Madison Krauser, Jr.; MF Olivia Pappalardo, Jr.; F Emily Paxton, Jr.; D Heather Ward, Jr.
Outlook: The Buffs lost four senior starters, including standout goalkeeper Annie Brunner and forward Anne Stuller. Despite those losses, CU has a lot of talent coming back, including seven starters, and could make another NCAA Tournament run. Sophomore Brie Hooks posted one of the best freshman seasons in program history, while forward Madison Krauser, midfielder Darcy Jerman and defenders Bianca Jones, Alex Huynh and Heather Ward are among the team's best, too. A key for the Buffs will be finding a replacement for Brunner, who was a four-year starter in net.
Opening day in any sports season generally brings a high level of excitement and anticipation.
For a whole bunch of reasons, the Colorado soccer team has extra energy going into the opener.
Today, the Buffaloes will host Colorado State in the season opener for both squads. The game also kicks off the fourth annual Colorado Cup.
"We're ready to go," CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. "Just like every other 330 Division I teams in the country, everybody is undefeated. It's been a good preseason camp and I think we're in a pretty good place right now."
Coming off a season in which they went 14-7-2 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, the Buffs are eager to see if they can build upon that.
Senior Bianca Jones said the "boundaries are limitless" for this team, which advanced to the Sweet 16 last fall.
Another senior, Darcy Jerman, said the Buffs have a good mix of talent to make another run.
"We lost some seniors, but we gained some really valuable freshmen," she said. "A lot of our underclassmen are stepping up, and we've got great senior leadership. We're just ready."
The Buffs are also ready to start a new rivalry. For decades, the CU-CSU rivalry has been a special one, but not in soccer. Friday will be the first meeting on the pitch between the Buffs and Rams, who started their program just a year ago.
"I think this game is really special, just because it is CSU," Jerman said. "I know a lot of players on that team that I've played against my whole life.
"For football it's always been a big rivalry; now it can be for soccer, as well. It's nice that they have a team now and we can try to beat them."
Adding another twist to the game is that CSU is led by former Buffs coach Bill Hempen. He led CU for 11 years, from 2001-11, before being dismissed and replaced by Sanchez.
"It's great. I look forward to playing on that field," Hempen said about returning to Prentup Field. "That's the best field I've ever played on."
Hempen, who went 114-88-28 at CU, said he's excited about starting a new rivalry with the Buffs.
"If this was last year, I wouldn't be so excited about it," he said. "This year, with a year of recruiting under our belt, we have more of a chance to give some competition to the Buffs. I'm just glad we're more competitive now than we were a year ago."
Hempen is quite familiar with several of the Buffs, including four seniors — Carly Bolyard, Storie Ledger, Jerman and Jones — who played their freshmen season for him. Several of CU's juniors were recruited by Hempen.
"Those kids have a good coach in Danny and I'm sure they've forgotten all about me at this point," Hempen said.
Not quite. Although those four seniors had just one semester with Hempen, Jones said she'll be excited to see him today.
"He gave me the chance of a lifetime being up at CU, building on the legacy that my family has built here," said Jones, whose father and aunt were both CU athletes. "Of course there are emotions. There's nostalgia, really. I had him for a semester, but I've known him for so long."
Jones said she's happy to see Hempen getting the CSU program off the ground.
"Even though it didn't work out here, I'm happy he got a chance somewhere else, and I know he'll make it good over there," she said. "It'll be exciting to have that new competition."
The Buffs would love to get the competition with CSU started with a win. But more than anything, the Buffs are eager to get a win and set the tone for the rest of the season.
"We're beyond excited," Jones said. "We've been training so hard.
"All the excitement has been building and it's going to be way better this year."