Northern Colorado football players to watch, 2022 season notes
With the regular season opener fast approaching, the University of Northern Colorado football team prepares for another shot at the Big Sky title.
The Bears already started their season with an exhibition against the Air Force last week, but the regular season doesn’t start until Thursday when Wyoming comes to town.
UNC has lost several senior players, including Big Sky Offensive MVP Lexi Pulley and All-Conference selections Taylor Bray, Erika Hall and Olivia Seddon.
The team, however, will have several returning players and feature many new faces.
Here are the players to watch and things to note at the start of the season.
Maddie Duren, defender
Duren is returning to UNC as a graduate student, with additional eligibility due to COVID-19. She is the reigning Big Sky Defensive MVP and longtime member of the program.
The veteran helped lead the defense, which allowed an average of just 1.11 goals per game last year.
Although he is not a main goalscorer in the program, Duren still helps in attack. She scored four goals during her UNC career and attempted more than a dozen shots last season alone.
Lucy Hart, defender
Hart became a key figure in the Bears defense as a true freshman last year. She had an assist last year, in the team’s 7-2 win over Idaho State to clinch the regular season title.
Additionally, Hart played the entire game in three games. She received an All-Big Sky honorable mention after her first success in 2021.
With the graduation of Erika Hall and Isabella Almazan, Hart – who has already proven his impact – could see even more playing time on the court.
Abby Bush, midfielder
Bush is a player local fans will want to watch. The incoming freshman from Windsor signed with UNC as a junior in high school, saying she loved staying close to her family and other loved ones. Both of her parents are graduates of UNC.
She also said it would be nice for members of the community to follow her college career.
Most recently, Bush scored a late-game penalty to push the Wizards into the 4A State Finals in May. Windsor was the state runner-up.
Replacing Pulley and Bray won’t be an easy task, even with experienced players. The duo became No.1 and No.2 respectively in the Big Sky last year in goals scored. They also rank in the program’s all-time top 10 in goals, game-winning goals, shots, shots on target and points.
UNC coach Tim Barrera thinks senior Britney Donais, second Lauren Fuller, junior Melina Faris, freshman Riley Kaali-Nagy and second Lauren Woodhull will all be ones to watch this year.
Kaali-Nagy scored the Bears’ lone preseason goal against the Air Force. Barrera said Kaali-Nagy is “dangerous” because she’s athletic and can read the game well. Fuller is a CSU transfer with playing experience, while the other three have had playing time with UNC.
Trying to replace two of the best players in UNC history is going to be a challenge, but these women seem like the best bet.
In addition to the players themselves, the coaches of the program have a lot of experience.
Barrera, the 2021 Big Sky Coach of the Year, is entering his 24th season at UNC and nearly 30 years overall. He is joined by assistant coach Amy Kolowsky, who has been with the program since 2020. She previously coached at Appalachian State, focusing on goaltending.
Everton Do Prado also joins the squad this year. He started playing the sport as a child and has coaching experience on many levels. Do Prado coached in high school in Hawaii, was an assistant for the Utah men’s soccer team and an assistant for the Haiti national team.
Between the three are about four decades of experience, with both Barrera and Kolowsky on conference tournament qualifying teams.
The Bears won the league regular season title for the first time in 2021. They also played in nine conference-high Big Sky tournaments and were chosen to win the league again in 2022.
UNC kicks off the regular season at 7 p.m. Thursday when it hosts Wyoming at Jackson Stadium.