Hailey Stodden hadn’t been out of Colorado very long before she helped break the hearts of her home state team.
On Nov. 2, 2018, Stodden, then a freshman at Utah, scored in the 11th minute at Prentup Field. The goal held up and Stodden, a graduate of Broomfield High, celebrated while the Buffs were dealt a defeat that sealed a season-ending four-game losing streak that kept CU out of the NCAA Tournament.
Stodden now has a chance to score plenty more big goals near her old back yard. Earlier this week, coach Danny Sanchez announced that Stodden and goalkeeper Isabella Grust, a prep recruit out of Rancho Sante Fe, Calif., will join the Buffs for the 2021 fall season.
Stodden’s game-winning goal at Prentup was her only goal during two seasons at Utah, where she started in 40 games while recording three assists in 2019. A two-time winner of the BoCoPreps Player of the Year award, Stodden was a Pac-12 All-Freshman selection in 2018.
“She was a player we recruited out of high school. She was at an ID camp and she did really well. And the next thing I saw she committed (to Utah),” Sanchez said. “So she committed really early. Which is fine. When she reached out and when she decided she wanted to come back home, we were pleased to add her. Obviously she has done well and Utah and is very versatile. She can play on different lines and at different positions.
“As importantly, she’s a good student. Everyone I talked to just really raves about her work ethic and attitude and coachability and [professionalism. I think she’ll fit in well with next year’s squad.”
While players transferring to be closer to home is nothing new in college athletics, such moves have been particularly beneficial to the Buffs under Sanchez. Recent former Buffs and native Coloradoans Tatum Barton, Megan Massey, Becca Rasmussen, Morgan Stanton, and Danica Evans all began their collegiate careers elsewhere before transferring to CU. Evans and Rasmussen were NWSL draft picks, and Barton’s 11 goals in 2018 is tied (with Evans) for the fifth-best single-season total in program history.
Current Buffs Dani Hansen, Sofia Weiner, and Gabbi Chapa also are Colorado natives who started their careers at other schools.
“There’s such great coaching in our state and there’s great teams, but there also isn’t the depth as you have maybe in southern California or northern California as far as sheer numbers,” Sanchez said. “You have a certain number of players that can make an impact at the Pac-12 level and they get recruited hard by everybody. As we’re recruiting these Colorado student-athletes, obviously we go out hard after the best ones right off the bat. But if we don’t get one, we make sure to make a good lasting impression, because we do get a lot of that bounce-back.”
While Stodden will provide a big reinforcement in the fall season, the Buffs still have unfinished business this spring. On Friday, CU opens a regular season-ending three-game homestand against Arizona, and the Buffs likely are in a must-win situation the rest of the way if they hope to crack the shortened 48-team field for the NCAA Tournament.
“We have three nonconference wins, including one against Denver who is having a great year. Which will carry some weight,” Sanchez said. “We lead with these games, Arizona and Arizona State, I think Arizona State is in a really good spot right now. I think Arizona is probably similar to us where we need results.
“I think in this year, with everything that’s gone on, you can’t ask for more than to go into the last three at home in control of your own fate.”
Arizona Wildcats at CU Buffs women’s soccer
KICKOFF: Friday, 2:30 p.m., Prentup Field.
RECORDS: Arizona 8-4, 3-4 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 7-5-1, 3-4-1.
KEY PLAYERS: Arizona — F Jill Aguilera, Sr. (seven goals, four assists); F Jada Talley, Sr. (five goals, five assists); GK Hope Hisey, So. (.821 save percentage, 0.85 goals-against average). Colorado — F Shyra James, Fr., (four goals, one assist); D Hannah Sharts, Jr. (four goals, one assist); D Lawson Willis, Fr. (six assists); MF Shanade Hopcroft, Sr. (four assists); GK Dani Hansen, R-So. (.866 save percentage, 0.87 goals-against average).
NOTES: CU coach Danny Sanchez said seniors Shanade Hopcroft and Gabbi Chapa plan to take advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility relief for 2020-21 to return for the fall season. The remainder of the Buffs’ seniors will make their decisions later…CU has scored just two goals over the past four games but has managed to split those contests, netting a pair of 1-0 road wins at Utah and Oregon…The Buffs host Arizona State on Sunday (1 p.m.) and conclude the regular season at home on April 16 against Utah…CU leads the all-time series against the Wildcats 4-1-4. The Buffs are 1-0-3 at home against UA…Arizona has won three of its past four games, including a win last week against Stanford that ended a 14-game losing streak against the Cardinal.