Saturday, 3:00 PM
Colorado (13-6-1; 3rd – Pac-12; WTSR – 1.01, 6th – Pac-12)
BYU (13-4-3; 1st – WCC; WTSR – 1.63, 1st – WCC)
Think BYU Remembers That Second Round NCAA Tournament Loss Last Year?
Is BYU’s Crazy High WTSR More About Them or The WCC?
Any team that puts up such an absurd WTSR rating has talent. Smoke and mirrors don’t produce those kind of numbers. At the same time though, the loss to Pepperdine was pretty instructive about BYU. They’re going to outshoot a lot of foes and did so at a crazy margin in league play. But at times, against better squads, the shots just aren’t going to fall, and against the Waves, BYU had a huge advantage on the stat sheet but still lost, 3-2. The WCC having a bad season obviously helped BYU’s numbers out, but it’s far more likely that the Cougars dominate and lose instead of just having an absolute clunker. At least in the early rounds.
Have the Goals of Ashley Hatch Been The Difference?
I’d argue it’s been both the goals of Hatch and the guile of Niki Fernandes and Michele Murphy in concert. Hatch is the big, bruising forward at the top of the formation that the club has been missing since Carlee Payne Holmoe graduated. She clearly had physical tools last season but was still learning how to use them at this level and didn’t really start dominating until this season. Eleven goals in nine WCC games is a great return, and Hatch often just ran through entire backlines to score goals. Fernandes offers up a creative spark often absent in BYU’s frantic, athletic attack and is going to be crucial to unlock defenses with her passing. Add in players like Murphy and midfielder Elena Medeiros, and you’ve got a squad replete with weapons.
Is The Defense Good Enough to Bail The Offense Out If Shots Aren’t Falling?
It’s a glaring question. It’s hard to ignore this side shipping four to LSU, three to Pepperdine, and two to a couple other squads this year. Considering BYU had to undergo a major makeover defensively after heavy losses, it’s performed fine enough against most foes, but better teams are going to pose a problem. Annie Amos has turned into the WCC’s ace defender at center-back, but there’s a dearth of experience at the other positions, with underclassmen Miranda Bailey and Avery Calton likely to be joined by undersized but tenacious junior Sarah Chambers. Senior Katherine Snyder’s been steady in goal, but she can’t steal games like Erica Owens did.
How Did Colorado End Up Flirting With The Bubble As Long As They Did?
Terrible non-conference scheduling. And that’s not hyperbole. The Buffs ended up playing a long line of stiffs before Pac-12 play and also didn’t get a bounce from playing a Denver side who had their worst season in ages. It’s easy to forget that CU actually lost four of their first seven in the league as well! But the Buffs went 3-0-1 in their last four to bounce up the table and make bubble talk a mere formality last Monday.
But This Colorado Side May Have Issues Scoring.
Let’s put it this way: If the Buffs go down by multiple goals, you can probably book BYU’s flight to Chapel Hill. CU averaged a little over a goal a game in the league but scored zero goals against UCLA, Stanford, and Washington, raising questions about CU’s ability to score against top teams. Still, the Buffs scored seven goals in their last three, so they won’t be going into this one out of form. Brie Hooks managed to get scoring after a slow start this season and netted five goals in Pac-12 action. Otherwise, the team is likely leaning on Madison Krauser for goals, as she brought in a two goal, three assist return in the league. Nobody else other than Hooks had more than four goals that didn’t come from the spot though, so if BYU can neutralize her, it could be a rough day for the Buffs.
The Defense Has Come Around Late Though, Right?
Yup. CU has conceded just one goal in their last four, which has to be a relief considering they had given up six in the previous three, including three to Stanford. They’ve also conceded four to Cal and two to Kansas and Washington State though, showing non-elite offenses can break the club down at times. But there’s more good than bad here. Senior Tori Cooper has gone from limited destroyer in midfield to a tough-tackling, no-frills center-back. Kate Scheele has exceeded expectations in goal after transferring from Colorado College and has a rocket leg that could be key in keeping the ball away from the BYU frontline.
Is any game with BYU ever not exciting? They’ll probably get their shots, and a lot of them at that. If the Cougars are ticking over on offense, Colorado’s probably going to go down in flames. But a month and a half facing the likes of UCLA and Stanford may have firmed up CU’s constitution to the point that this isn’t going to be quite as easy for BYU as some might suspect. In fact, if the Buffs maintain the form of the past few weeks, they might just make a mockery of those calling for the WCC champs to advance with ease.