Buffs Soccer Already Testing National Waters

Why not just get straight to the point? The 2003 University of Colorado women's soccer season isn't even a calendar week old yet, and already they've rustled the feathers of some of the most well-respected perennial powerhouses in Division-I soccer.

Case in point: the team's first regular season game of the year which saw the Buffs pitted against defending National Champion and then second-ranked Portland University. It took place on Friday afternoon in front of a crowd of better than 1,500, the second largest attendance in CU's history.

And the black and gold faithful were by no means disappointed. Colorado held Portland to 87 scoreless minutes before a loose-ball corner kick found its way into the CU net with less than three minutes remaining in regulation.

Colorado dropped the 1-0 decision to open their 2003 campaign, but not before they'd beaten Northern Colorado and the Air Force Academy by a combined score of 7-0 in the two pre-season exhibition matches the team opened with a little more than a week before.

A moral victory for CU, or more a loss for Portland, was the overall effect the Buffs' stingy competitiveness had on the nation's view of the defending champs in Friday's game. Portland made the biggest single jump of any team in women's soccer when the most recent NCAA/Adidas National Rankings came out on Monday, placing Portland at 18th, down from first in the preseason and second when they played the Buffs last weekend.

Meanwhile, the Lady Buffs themselves rebounded nicely, concluding their opening weekend with a 2-1 overtime victory over Georgia on Sunday, and improving their mark on the regular season to 1-1 overall, while dropping the Bulldogs to the same after they'd beaten Wyoming in Laramie two days before.

Obviously essential in Colorado's first win were freshman Katie Griffin's first two career goals, the second coming in overtime to seal the victory. While shots from her more senior teammates did everything but go past Georgia net minder Ashley Lindley, Griffin used the team's last scoring chance of the first half in the 36th minute to give Colorado a 1-0 advantage. The Scottsdale, Arizona native then put the winner away in the 93rd to cap off an amazing game and an altogether impressive opening weekend.
The national exposure given to their Buffs over their opening weekend was excitement enough to draw better than 2,500 fans to Boulder over the weekend in anticipation of what's almost sure to be an attention-getting season.

Perhaps what's most impressive about CU's team is the unprecedented depth they seem to posses at every position on the field. The experienced group appears to somehow sense one another's weaknesses and compensate the best ways they can.

Colorado natives Alyssa Burgess and Ellen Falender have each made tremendous strides at their respective midfield and defender/forward positions, and the junior tandem has proven to be one of the most solid the Buffs posses.

Defensively, Colorado is tactically outstanding, and has the talented players to prove it. Darci Smerchek and Tricia Regan are apparently two very different players, but when you look past their six inch height differential, each is amazingly instinctual considering their four years combined experience.

Anchoring the CU defense is perhaps the most intriguing piece of the puzzle: 5-5 sophomore keeper Jeanne Rankin. She may not fill up a goal box, but her bio does fine taking up space in the CU media guide. Among her various accolades including a four-year letterwinner while attending high school in southern California, were All-Southern Prep Conference honors, All-North End honors, and was honorable mention All-SPC as a junior and senior, among others. Still, the fact that she held a strict 1.00 goals against average throughout her four-year high school career is perhaps her most telling stat.

Indeed, the success Colorado has as this season progresses will not be limited by the talent it fields. What it might be affected by, though, is who that talent is matched up against.

The surging Buffs will need every bit of momentum they've mustered to this point when the battle ninth-ranked Denver University in south Denver on Saturday.

Other currently ranked opponents the Buffs are scheduled to face this year include Texas (21st) and Nebraska (14th).

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