CUIndependent.com's fall sports coverage kicks off with previews of women's soccer, women's volleyball, cross country and football. Meet your beat writers and get excited for the season. By Jordyn Siemens

Meet the Beats: Kicking, snapping and serving up fall sports

Sophomore Olivia Pappalardo dribbles the ball up the wing searching for an open teammate against Stanford Saturday Oct. 28, 2013. (Nate Bruzdzinski/CU Independent)
Sophomore Olivia Pappalardo dribbles the ball up the wing searching for an open teammate against Stanford Saturday Oct. 28, 2013. (Nate Bruzdzinski/CU Independent)

 

Every fan is relieved by the general exhalation of the collective American lung when football season begins. Fortunately for the University of Colorado and Buffalo athletics, there is a lot more than touchdowns and quarterback sacks to be excited about this Fall.

Soccer

Colorado women’s soccer opened their season over the weekend against Colorado State and the University of Northern Colorado, shutting out both teams (2-0/1-0, respectively) to claim the fourth annual Colorado Cup. The Lady Buffaloes are currently tied for first place in the Pac-12 Conference with the University of California, Stanford, and UCLA.

Senior midfielder Darcy Jerman, Colorado’s third top scorer last season, contributed the final goal of the weekend to send UNC packing. Against CSU, it was sophomore forward Brie Hooks and freshman Brittney Stark finding the back of the net.

At CU’s annual Fall Sports Media Day on Aug. 9, head coach Danny Sanchez seemed to have his eyes on building the soccer program first and winning games second.

“I think we jumped ahead a little bit further [last season] than we thought we would be,” Sanchez said. “I think we’ve got some good momentum going right now, and we want to continue to build off that…the bar has been raised and the players and the program realize that. It’s the Pac-12…There’s no room for error.”

Conference play begins on Sept. 27 and Sanchez is ready for the conference starting gates to open.

“Our big, long-term focus is Cal on the 27th and the 10 games after that.”

2014 CU Independent soccer beat writers: Elizabeth Vogel and Andrew Haubner

Members of the CU Volleyball Team celebrate after winning the second set of their Oct. 4th match against top-ranked Washington. The Buffs won the match three games to one. (James Bradbury/CU Independent)
Members of the CU volleyball team celebrate after winning the second set of their Oct. 4th match against top-ranked Washington. The Buffs won the match three games to one. (James Bradbury/CU Independent)

Volleyball

On the court, head volleyball coach Liz Kritza’s squad seems especially grounded this year. Coming off a second-round appearance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, recruitment, health, and high morale seem to be top goals for the Fall. Kritza, at Media Day, mentioned that “getting the best players in Colorado to play for Colorado” was “one of the big pieces” in her recruitment plan for this season.

“The other big piece, [which] I don’t think it’s always apparent, is that we have a lot of players that have done a lot of work in the off-season,” she said.

Generally, volleyball fans’ eyes will be focused on senior outside hitter Taylor Simpson early on. Named to the All-Pac-12 preseason team, Simpson will not only serve as an example to her own teammates, but to fellow outsides in the conference as well.

The Simpson surname won’t die after Taylor’s senior season, though. Sophomore defensive specialist Cierra Simpson will no doubt be key to the Buffs’ success, contributing 372 digs throughout the 2014 season. This was the most of any player in the backcourt. A third sister, freshman setter Gabby Simpson, joined the team this year as a setter under junior Nicole Edelman.

Colorado volleyball begins conference play on Thursday, Sept. 25 at home against Utah after the Northern Illinois Invitational this weekend, the Omni Classic in Boulder and the Creighton Classic in Omaha.

2014 CU Independent volleyball beat writers: Jillian Arja and Lisa Marcum

Blake Theroux (28), of CU, crosses the finish line, winning the men's 8K at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Shootout, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Buffalo Ranch Cross Country Course in Boulder, Colo. The 3rd-ranked CU men's cross country team took first overall in the meet. (Kai Casey/CU Independent)
Blake Theroux (28), of CU, crosses the finish line, winning the men’s 8K at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Shootout, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Buffalo Ranch Cross Country Course in Boulder, Colo. The 3rd-ranked CU men’s cross country team took first overall in the meet. (Kai Casey/CU Independent)

Cross country

This is the exception to the rule at Colorado, where the main motto for sports teams is improvement. The truth is, you can’t get much better than a national championship.

Fortunately for the men’s cross country team, each of the seven runners who earned last year’s NCAA Championship is returning healthy. With freshman recruits and leaders like junior Connor Winter and senior Blake Theroux, the Buffs should be able to contest the constantly changing landscape of cross country racing.

“Our sport is a little unlike most other sports in that an opponent can have a completely different team and entirely different roster than they had a year ago,” head coach Mark Wetmore said in a Media Day statement. “It’s not impossible to not make the NCAA championship in one year and have a contending team the next.”

Even with rivals improving, a steady eye should be kept on this men’s team. It is said that defense wins championships, and defending this title is at the forefront of their minds.

On the women’s side, Wetmore named junior Carrie Verdon as a confirmed leader for the 2014 season. Sophomores Erin Clark and Melanie Nun will also return, and are ones to watch.

“I think the women were about seventh a year ago and they can be very good again,” Wetmore said. “They can be better than that.”

2014 CU Independent cross country beat writer: Jordyn Siemens

Ahkello Witherspoon celebrates after his game clinching broken up pass during the Spring Game on April 12, 2014. (Matt Sisneros/ CU Independent)
Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon celebrates after his game-clinching pass break-up during the Spring Game on April 12, 2014. (Matt Sisneros/ CU Independent)

Football

Head coach Mike MacIntyre does not just want six wins for a bowl game this season. He wants 12 1-0 seasons.

“We want to start out 1-0 and then we’ll go to the next week and go 1-0,” MacIntyre said. “Each week is a season in itself.”

Offensively, starting quarterback Sefo Liufau has shown more “zip” and accuracy in his passing game, according to MacIntyre. Standouts from camp include junior defensive lineman Josh Toupou and the ever-consistent Addison Gillam, who is a co-captain to Liufau this year.

With regards to state rival CSU, Buff fans can only hope that these boys, in all their high morale, can execute a positive start at Sports Authority Field. Don’t worry — in-depth coverage of the 2014 Rocky Mountain Showdown is on its way this Friday, when the Buffaloes and Rams come face-to-face in Denver at 7 p.m.

2014 CU Independent football beat writers: Jared Funk-Breay, Tommy Wood, Grayson O’Roark, Sean Kelly

Fall is officially here. Hope is tangible in the Boulder air. Be a Buffs fan. Be addicted.

Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Jordyn Siemens at jordyn.siemens@colorado.edu.

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