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CU Buffs lacrosse set to begin new season

Coach Ann Elliott Whidden has not announced starting goalkeeper going into opener

Sadie Grozier, of CU, shoots on Brittany Read, of Oregon, during the Pac-12 Women’s Lacrosse Tournament in Boulder.
For more photos, go to buffzone.com.
Cliff Grassmick  Photographer  April 27, 2018
Sadie Grozier, of CU, shoots on Brittany Read, of Oregon, during the Pac-12 Women’s Lacrosse Tournament in Boulder. For more photos, go to buffzone.com. Cliff Grassmick Photographer April 27, 2018
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With the exception of a few games at the start of the 2018 season, Colorado women’s lacrosse coach Ann Elliott Whidden has always known who would protect the net for the Buffaloes.

About 24 hours before the first game of her ninth season as the Buffs’ coach, however, Whidden wasn’t sure who would start at goalkeeper.

“It is a game-time decision of who’s going to play,” Whidden said Thursday as CU prepared for Friday’s season opener against Louisville.

Even with that uncertainly in goal, Whidden and the Buffs enter their ninth season as a program confident and hungry for success.

Earlier this week, the Buffs were picked to finish second in the Pac-12 and they are aiming to improve upon an 8-7 mark during the disjointed, COVID-impacted season of 2021.

“Last year was disappointing,” said Whidden, who is 87-47 as the only coach in CU history. “That falls on me and it falls on our team. We struggled with the challenges of COVID out here. That’s just a fact and we didn’t do a good enough job in being as good as I think we could have been last year.

“We’ve been focused this year, not really on looking backward but more growing from that experience and coming into this season with that growth and with that mindset that we have a lot of potential but we can’t sell ourselves short. We’ve got to get out there and work every day, and every person on this team matters. I think we’ve grown up a lot over the last 12 months. I think we’re in a better position, but I think any coach will tell you until you get out and you play, you really don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.”

What Whidden does know is that she has a good mix of veteran leaders and young talent.

The Buffs have five fifth-year seniors, including Sadie Grozier, who led the team with 52 points (39 goals, 13 assists) in 2021. Fifth-year seniors Devon Bayer, Macaul Mellor and Aine Williams return to the defense.

In addition, CU added attacker Sam McGee, a fifth-year senior who played the past four seasons at Saint Joseph’s, scoring 85 goals in 49 games. And, the Buffs return fourth-year senior Charlie Rudy, the team leader in goals (45) last year.

Overall, the Buffs have 16 seniors.

“Definitely, we feel like we have a good mix of experience, a good mix of players that have been in a situation where they have to be the player,” Whidden said. “They have to be the leader out there, they have to be the player that makes the play. I think we got that last year, even though it was a little bit of a weird year for us. I think our older players got that experience that they didn’t have prior to last year.”

The roster also includes nine sophomores and six freshmen.

“We have some youth and we have some people that are fighting for spots and challenging our older kids,” Whidden said. “I think that’s really an exciting combination there.”

At goalkeeper, the Buffs have had just two starters – Paige Soenkson (2014-17) and Julia Lisella (2018-21) – in their history, but now have a three-player competition. Senior Molly Galloway, junior Grace Donnelly and sophomore Danielle Heintz are battling for the job.

“I think it’s exactly that: a competition,” Whidden said. “I think the best thing about it is we feel comfortable with whoever ends up in the net, and we feel comfortable that we have great backup goalies if we need to use them. It’s really just a tough decision for us to make on who’s that best one, but we’re confident in all of them.”

No matter who is in net, the Buffs are eager to get rolling with the season on Friday.

“We’re really excited just to get back out and play,” Whidden said. “We have a group that’s energized to play together, a group that’s been focused, and we’re really excited to see where we’re at and just get out there play and compete and get off to a good start.”

Louisville at CU Buffs women’s lacrosse

GAME TIME: Friday, 2 p.m., Kittredge Field.

RECORDS (2021): Louisville 5-11; Colorado 8-7.

COACHES: Louisville — Scott Tetter, 5th season (21-39, 166-159 overall). Colorado — Ann Elliott Whidden, 9th season (87-47 at CU and overall).

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Louisville— M Caroline Blalock, Gr. (30 goals, 11 assists); A Hannah Morris, Sr. (25 goals, two assists); A Kokoro Nakazawa, So. (10 goals, five assists). Colorado — A Sadie Grozier, Gr. (39 goals, 13 assists); A Charlie Rudy, Sr. (45 goals, four assists); M Ashley Stokes, So. (16 goals, 10 assists); A Chloe Willard, Sr. (11 goals, 15 assists); M Liz Phillips, Sr. (12 goals, six assists); A Morgan Pence, So. (10 goals).

NOTES: On Thursday, CU moved the game time up one hour, to 2 p.m., to try and get the match in ahead of adverse weather forecasted later in the afternoon…The Buffs return almost their entire offensive production from 2021. The lone exception is 2021 third-leading scorer Zoe Lawless, who graduated after posting 29 goals and four assists…CU suffered a season-opening 12-9 loss at Louisville last year. Grozier paced CU’s attack with four goals…The Buffs are 6-2 all-time in home openers…Charlie Rudy, who paced CU in goals last season, begins the season nine goals shy of becoming the sixth player to record at least 100 in her career in program history…CU will be off until a Feb. 20 road date at Harvard.