Rachel Rosen is one of just four active players for the Colorado women’s soccer team who were in the starting lineup a year ago when UCLA visited.
It isn’t a pleasant memory. The Bruins scored 80 seconds into the match and led 4-0 at halftime in what became a forgettable 6-0 defeat for the Buffaloes against the eventual national champs.
After an impressive run through nonconference play marked by the program’s longest winning streak in five years, the Buffs, who have risen to No. 20 in the United Soccer Coaches top 25, get a chance at redemption while possibly making an early statement in the Pac-12 Conference race when they host the fifth-ranked Bruins in the league opener on Friday night at Prentup Field.
“Everyone is so excited, especially with how we’ve started the season,” Rosen said. “I think we’re all super confident and positive how this season is going to go. Obviously the returning players, the game against UCLA last year wasn’t at all what we wanted. We’re ready to redeem ourselves and we’re really confident we can get a good result.”
Rosen, a senior who was voted team captain this season, has been part of a defense that has played a key role in the Buffs’ 8-1 start. She also has helped provide a little offense lately, collecting her first goal of the season along with two assists in CU’s final two nonconference games.
Rosen played midfielder early in her career but has emerged as a standout defender on the left side. Prior to the season, CU head coach Danny Sanchez said improved team defense would be critical to the team’s success this season, and the back line has gotten the job done through nonconference play. While new starting goalie Jordan Nytes, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has recorded five shutouts so far, the Buffs are allowing far fewer chances than a year ago. CU allowed an average of 6.8 shots on goal per game last season, but has lowered that number to 3.9 per game so far this season.
Offensively, Shyra James’ seven goals is the top total in the Pac-12 heading into league play, but the Buffs have benefitted from wide-ranging contributions. Ten different players scored goals for CU in 20 games last year, but through nine nonconference games 11 different Buffs players have scored.
“We did, for the most part, what we needed to do in nonconference,” Sanchez said. “We’ve had some good moments. But the success of our season is going to be determined over the next 11 games in the Pac-12. (Friday) is a huge game for us, but it’s one of 11. We’re going to come out and perform at our highest level, and then on Wednesday we’re going to go to Oregon.”
In the Bruins, CU will face another stout defense. In its six victories, UCLA has allowed only eight shots on goal while surrendering only one goal. The Bruins surrendered five shots on goal and three goals during their lone loss, a 3-1 decision at BYU (currently ranked sixth).
“What BYU does, is they come out on the front foot and they attack at home every single time, and it’s scary to go against. And UCLA wasn’t ready for it,” Rosen said. “I think that’s exactly what we need to do. And it’s something we’re capable of doing, because we’ve done it before.
“It’s a completely new feel on the back line. We don’t give up anything easy, and I think that’s the difference. We trust each other, we communicate well, and that’s what I think has made such a difference.”
No. 5 UCLA Bruins at No. 20 CU Buffs women’s soccer
KICKOFF: Friday, 7 p.m., Prentup Field.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network.
RECORDS: UCLA 6-1-0; Colorado 8-1-0.
KEY PLAYERS: UCLA — M/F Sunshine Fontes, Gr. (four goals, one assist); F Reilyn Turner, Sr. (three goals, three assists); F Ally Cook, Gr. (three goals, one assist); GK Neeku Purcell, So. (.692 save percentage, 0.58 goals-against average). Colorado — F Shyra James, Sr. (seven goals, one assist); M Amaya Gonzalez, Gr. (one goal, four assists); M Ally Clark, Gr. (two goals); D Faith Leyba, Fr. (two goals); D Ava Priest, Fr. (one goal, two assists); D Rachel Rosen, Sr. (one goal, two assists); GK Jordan Nytes, So (.886 save percentage, 0.44 goals-against average).
NOTES: The Buffs have won seven consecutive games, their longest win streak since winning eight in a row in 2018. … CU is just 2-13 all-time against the Bruins with six consecutive losses. … The Buffs already have matched their 2022 win total. … This is the first time the Buffs have been ranked for a Pac-12 match since early in the 2019 season. … CU and UCLA own two of the four lowest goals-against averages in the Pac-12. The Buffs are second at 0.44 and the Bruins are fourth at 0.57. … With 32 career goals, James is tied for fourth all-time at CU with Katie Griffin. After going without a point in the second and third games of the season, James has recorded 13 points in the past six games (six goals, one assist). … UCLA coach Margueritte Aozasa was named the Pac-12 coach of the year last year and also became the first first-year head coach to lead their team to the NCAA title. … Turner was the catalyst of UCLA’s 6-0 win at Prentup last year with two goals and an assist. … CU goes on its first Pac-12 road trip of the season next week with games at Oregon and Oregon State.