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Jul. 15—Glance through the roster of the Colorado women's soccer team, and one quickly will notice a huge California presence.
Much like the CU men's basketball program, the Southern California region has provided a recruiting boon for Buffaloes soccer under head coach Danny Sanchez. With the announcement two weeks ago that USC and UCLA will be leaving the Pac-12 Conference in two years for the Big Ten, that direct pipeline to a talent-rich area will end for the Buffs.
However, like Tad Boyle's basketball program, Sanchez doesn't expect the end of every-other-year trips to Los Angeles to dry up that recruiting well. Fifteen of the 28 players on CU's 2022 roster are from California.
"We have a couple years, and as we know the landscape is shifting daily," Sanchez said. "Ask me in two years in August how it might look. But for us, (playing in Southern California) isn't vital. If you look at the alumni database of CU, even when we were in the Big 12, it was still a huge presence in California. This is where California people want to go to school. I don't feel that side of it. It's Boulder that's the draw, not that twice in their career that you play in LA."
In terms of women's soccer, the loss of USC and UCLA will be damaging for the Pac-12. Stanford, of course, remains a national power. But USC (12) and UCLA (18) posted the top two RPI marks in the Pac-12 last fall. Overall, with the Los Angeles schools leading the way, the Pac-12's average RPI in women's soccer last fall 65.9. While this week CU athletic director Rick George pronounced confidence in the solidarity of the remaining 10 schools in the Pac-12, some type of merger with the Big 12 has been a rumored option for the league. In women's soccer, the Big 12 posted an average RPI of 87.4 last year.
The Pac-12 sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament while the Big 12 (which has 10 women's soccer teams) sent two, although incoming Big 12 member Brigham Young was the national runner-up.
"I think it's too early to say, because in the next two years so much can happen," Sanchez said. "Obviously they're very good programs that have had success. But at the end of it, it's just too early to tell. There's going to be so many things in play. Maybe Colorado athletics comes out of it better. Our focus right now is on these next two years and we'll see what happens."
CU hosts the Los Angeles schools for what likely will be the final time as league rivals on Oct. 20 (UCLA) and Oct. 23 (USC).
This week, the Buffs added forward Civana Kuhlmann to the roster as a graduate transfer from Stanford. A Colorado native, Kuhlmann appeared in 62 games (42) starts for the Cardinal, recording 20 goals and seven assists. Kuhlmann was part of Stanford's national championship teams in 2017 and 2019, although she missed the 2019 season after suffering a preseason injury. She was a Pac-12 All-Freshman team selection in 2017 and was named third team All-Pac-12 for the 2020 season played in the spring of 2021.
"She's a player who wanted to come home and had a lot of success at Stanford, having won a couple of national championships there," Sanchez said. "She brings a winning pedigree, but she also has high aspirations for our program this year and her future professional career."
One dilemma facing all the Olympic sports, as well as the basketball teams, at USC and UCLA could be the travel requirements of playing in the Big Ten. The Buffs are traveling into the eastern time zone to play two games in three days when they visit Michigan (Sept. 8) and Michigan State (Sept. 11). But teams at the Los Angeles schools might soon have to tackle similar trips while traveling across three time zones, and likely do it multiple times every season.
"Fortunately for us, we're a little more centralized and when we do travel, it's only a time zone or two," Sanchez said. "It will be interesting how the student-athletes adjust to it. It won't necessarily be more lost class time, but it's a lot easier to fly to say, Oregon, than it is to fly to New York."
The Buffs first preseason practice for the 2022 campaign is scheduled for Aug. 2...Former CU star Taylor Kornieck and the US Women's National Team will face Canada in the final of the CONCACAF W Championship on Monday night (8 p.m. MT, Paramount+).