After starting strong and winning the inaugural edition of the Colorado Cup, CU women’s soccer finds themselves in a rough patch where they can’t seem to find the back of the net.
The Buffs, who scored eight goals in their first two games, have proceeded to notch two goals in their past four games, both coming in a 3-2 loss at the hands of No. 21 Illinois. What’s more alarming is both of the goals came directly off a free kick and a penalty kick, respectively. Colorado has failed to put enough meaningful touches together in the open field to score without the assistance of the referee’s whistle since their Aug. 21 meeting against Northern Colorado.
“As excited as this team was early about, ‘Boy, we’re going to score goals,’ we have completely flipped it,” said Coach Bill Hempen. “Now it’s wearing on them on the other side — probably a little bit of overconfidence [after the first two games] and now, no confidence.”
Despite their staggering offensive ineptitude, CU has found themselves in each and every one of their four losses during the scoring drought. In no game has CU’s opponent outscored the Buffs by more than one goal. In their latest loss at the hands of archrival University of Denver, the Buffs allowed an early goal in the seventh minute, but couldn’t manage to equalize, even though they outshot the visiting Pioneers 17-8.
“It was early enough where you think, ‘Come on, we’re going to get our chances,’” said Hempen. “We did, but we didn’t score.”
Colorado’s failure isn’t in creating chances; it’s in finishing them. In all but one of their losses, CU outshot their opponent. The Buffs’ best chance against DU came on a corner kick off the boot of Caroline Danneberg that bounced around in Denver’s 18-yard box before it was cleared away by what looked to be a Denver defender’s hand. Tough breaks like these have been commonplace for the Buffs’ booters, but if CU wants to be taken seriously in a tough Pac-12 Conference, they’ll have to learn to finish in front of the goal.
“We really need [a shot] to hit somebody in the knee and go in,” said Hempen. “If we can get that, maybe it’ll change. Maybe it’ll be a momentary relief, but we’re hoping things will change for us.”
Part of the reason the offense continues to struggle could be the absence of Hayley Hughes at the forward position.
Hughes, whose sheer speed in attack adds a dynamic piece to CU’s offense, started the first three games at forward and then switched to the back line after the first half against Wyoming. She returned to the forward spot against Purdue, but was taken out of the starting lineup for the following game. Hughes returned to the Buffs’ back three against Denver to counter the speed of the Pioneers’ star forward, Kristen Hamilton.
Up next for the Buffs is the Denver Invitational, where CU will face a talented Southeastern Conference foe in Auburn on Friday, Sept. 16. CU finishes the tournament by playing Cal-State Bakersfield on Sunday, Sept. 18. All games will be held on the campus of the University of Denver. The Pac-12 season starts on Friday, Sept. 23, as Colorado travels to Corvallis, Ore., to face Oregon State.