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Jul. 31—Classes do not begin for about another month. But for the Colorado women's soccer team, the opening of preseason practice will mark the start of a relatively short yet intense cram session.
On Tuesday, the 2022 season — CU's 11th under head coach Danny Sanchez — kicks off as the Buffs open preseason workouts. CU will have exactly 16 days to prepare for its season opener at home against Weber State on Aug. 18.
Looking to return to the postseason after missing the NCAA Tournament last year for just the third time over the past nine seasons, Sanchez said taking advantage of every moment of his club's limited prep time will be a key factor in getting the season off on the right foot.
"Hopefully they've been doing the work with our strength and conditioning coach Skylar (Rubalcaba). That's why July is so important for us, for the players to be in Boulder and be working out," Sanchez said. "If they're physically ready to go, we have to hit the ground running. We have such a small window, that hopefully someday the NCAA will address, but it's such a small window before a game. And a real game, too, not an exhibition.
"We'll jump right into playing and establishing roles. We have a good group back, but we have nine new players in there and a couple players back from injury. It will be hit-the-ground-running from day one."
Among the preseason priorities for the Buffs will be to punch up an attack that struggled at times last season and will need to replace 2021 points leader Shanade Hopcroft, whose 10 assists last year matched Taylor Kornieck's single-season team record.
CU ranked seventh in the Pac-12 last year in overall goals (31) and goals per game (1.63).
Sanchez believes his team has the firepower to improve those numbers, with top returning goal scorer Shyra James (nine goals) teaming with Stanford transfer Civana Kuhlmann, who tallied 20 goals and seven assists with the Cardinal and was a third team All-Pac-12 selection for the 2020 season.
Sanchez also offered high praise for fifth-year senior Kayleigh Webb, who has played all over the field during her CU career but is expected to bolster the Buffs' offense this fall.
"A player that's been around her forever, Kayleigh Webb, we moved her to the attack in the spring and she did really well," Sanchez said. "I think she's going to surprise a lot of people. She played center back as a freshman, a holding midfielder as sophomore and more of an attacking midfielder as a junior and senior. Now as a fifth-year senior, I think she still has her best soccer ahead of her."
Defensively, the Buffs return goalie Dani Hansen, the starter the past two seasons, as well as sixth-year senior Hannah Sharts, a two-time first team All-Pac-12 selection. CU also is crossing its collective fingers for a healthy senior season from defender Hannah Cardenas, who was limited to just three games over the past two seasons due to an injury.
"I think the other player we're real excited to see how she does is Hannah Cardenas," Sanchez said. "She's been out with injuries and her last healthy season was 2019, and she was fantastic. Since then she's been dinged up and hurt, but we're really looking forward to getting her back in the fold. She's really worked hard to get back."