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Coming off of Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the University of Washington, the CU women’s soccer team came back to Prentup Field looking to rebound against Washington State University, ranked No. 33 in the current NCAA RPI rankings.
In a physical, evenly-matched game against the Cougars, the Buffs came just short again, losing 1-0 on a second-half set piece in the 72nd minute.
Throughout the entirety of Sunday’s match, possession and control over the center of the field was crucial. The Buffs held strong in the midfield, keeping freshman Olivia Pappalardo in the match for 84 minutes and junior Darcy Jerman holding the center of the pitch for 63 minutes. Both girls are some of the most technical players on CU’s squad, and their roles couldn’t have been more important against Washington State on Sunday.
“I sit in front of the back four and protect them,” Jerman said after the match. “I look to win balls out of the air, move the ball, get behind it, move it again. I just try to make it [possession] through the center of the park.”
Both Pappalardo and Jerman played very well throughout the game in midfield, but the Buffs in general struggled to win the 50/50 balls in the air, which became a major part of how the game flowed. The Buffs struggled to keep possession, especially in the final third, losing out in many of the crucial possession-changing moments throughout the match.
But the Buffs have struggled to hold onto the ball against good teams a lot this season, and it wasn’t anything that head coach Danny Sanchez and his staff weren’t ready for.
“We knew we would be giving up a lot of possession to Washington State,” Sanchez said. “We need to do a better job when we want to be dangerous. There were situations where we could have kept it a little longer, but having said that, credit to them. They’re a good team. We need to do a better job of keeping the ball at times, and it just wasn’t consistent enough.”
Washington State played very well on Sunday, and it’s that kind of talent and physicality that the Buffs must be prepared for as the team goes deeper into its Pac-12 Conference season.
One of the ways the Buffs have kept themselves prepared for tough teams is by placing their star captain, senior Amy Barczuk, at center defense. Barczuk will be an anchor and defensive stronghold for the Buffs, especially against the very athletic Pac-12 strikers the team will come across in the remainder of conference play. The combination of Barczuk’s strong defense and junior keeper Annie Brunner’s talent in goal will be tough for opponents to get past.
Going into the halftime break against WSU, the Buffs were dominant and held their opponent to only four total shots (two on target).
In the second half though, the Buffs came out with less of the high-pressure style that has been the team’s bread and butter in recent matches. Part of the problem was the lack of communication from Barczuk and the defense with the midfield to press up and take away the passing lanes for the Washington State defenders.
Early on in the half in the 46th minute, Barczuk received a yellow card when she took down a Washington State forward just outside of the box near CU’s corner.
Getting a yellow card could cause a defender to play less physically and could change how she goes into 50/50s and tackles, but Barczuk said the card didn’t affect her play.
“Honestly it doesn’t [change how I play], but it should,” Barczuk said. “I need to be careful about getting another one, but it doesn’t really affect me.”
Barczuk continued to play very physically, holding up Washington State’s offense with ease — but even good players make mistakes.
In the 72nd minute, Washington State took a corner kick that was headed in with authority by sophomore forward Jocelyn Jeffers. It seemed like a flawless corner kick that couldn’t have been defended any better, but Barczuk was open to taking the blame for the goal.
“I take responsibility for that goal because it was in my area, and they depend on me to be able to get those out and I did not,” Barczuk said. “It’s just as simple as that.”
Though Barczuk is modest in her interviews, in all honesty, it’s just not that simple. The truth is that all of the Pac-12 teams the Buffs have faced so far this season have been dangerous off of set pieces. Any lack of communication or misjudgment defensively will more than likely be punished.
“There’s more finesse to them [Pac-12 set pieces],” said goalkeeper Brunner. “Everything is more perfected, more planned out. They [Washington State] were great in the air and they did well to finish on that corner.”
The Buffs struggled to create chances throughout the second half, having hit only one shot on target for the half going into the final ten minutes. Once the WSU goal was scored, coach Sanchez was forced to make some offensive adjustments. He moved Barczuk up into an attacking midfield position to give her more space to create with other teammates and to run with the ball.
The Buffs scurried to make a rush for the equalizer in the final minutes of the match, and they came close on a chance from Barczuk that caused Washington State’s goalie to bobble the ball, but the ball was cleared by a defender and it wasn’t enough.
When the Buffs made it to Washington State’s side of the field, a mistake would happen, and they would lose possession before they could get in shooting range.
“I don’t think we had a clear look at goal,” Sanchez said. “We had a lot of half chances, but the product in the final third wasn’t good enough.”
The game ended and the Buffs received their first shut-out loss of the 2012 season.
Next weekend won’t be any easier for the Buffs as they face the University of California at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5. Crocs will be hosting a shoe donation drop box at the game for their Crocs Cares program, and the first 100 fans who donate a pair of shoes will receive a $50 Crocs gift card.
On Sunday, Oct. 7, the Buffs will face the second-ranked team in the nation, the Stanford University Cardinals, in a match that will feature a pre-game run by Ralphie.
To watch a full recap of the CU soccer team’s weekend and an interview with head coach Danny Sanchez, click here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Joseph Wirth at Joseph.firstname.lastname@example.org.