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Carlson, Denver go for Sun Belt's top seed


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POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2009

With classes canceled and practice done for the day, Lizzy Carlson looked at the snow falling outside yesterday and reminisced.

“;My freshman year in the NCAA playoffs, it started snowing in the second half,”; Carlson said. “;I freaked out. I had under armor and gloves on but it was still really hard to play in that.”;

Carlson's first season playing for Denver ended that day as the Pioneers were bounced from the tournament in the second round. Three years later, her final regular-season home game could go the same way.

The two-time, All-Sun Belt Conference first-team midfielder is scheduled to play her final game at the University of Denver Soccer Stadium tomorrow when the Pioneers host North Texas, assuming the snowstorm that hit the campus yesterday goes away.

Unlike her first experience playing in the snow, Carlson is more equipped to handle the situation three years later.

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“;We practiced the other day and snow was getting stuck in our cleats and the ball hardly moved,”; she said. “;It's difficult, but yeah, we can play in it.”;

Carlson is trying to become part of the first senior class in Denver history to win the conference tournament four straight years. Denver has done so and played in the NCAA tournament in each of Carlson's three seasons, and was able to win its first postseason game in school history in 2006.

Tomorrow's game is a big one as Denver (13-5-2, 8-2 SBC) faces North Texas (11-5-2, 7-1-2). The two teams are part of a heated four-team battle trying to secure the top seed in the SBC tournament.

“;We're in a position to either win our conference or be second in our conference with a win on Friday,”; Carlson said. “;It's a big game.”;

The regular-season finale will be the 82nd game Carlson starts for the Pioneers. She's fourth on the team with 11 points this season (three goals, five assists), and has been one of Denver's most persistent attackers with 24 shots on goal.

For her career, Carlson has played in 84 games and has 18 goals and 19 assists.

“;(Soccer) has been such a big part of my life and it's going to be really sad,”; Carlson said. “;I've been playing since I was 5-years-old and I know I don't want to play when I'm done so it's definitely going to be weird.”;

The Pioneers lost 10 starters from last season, making Carlson's job as a team captain even harder. Denver has had to plug in a lot of new pieces in its quest for another Sun Belt Conference tournament title, and Carlson has had to play a bigger role in helping her teammates off the field.

“;I have gotten accustomed to worrying about everybody and trying to help the team out instead of just worrying about myself,”; Carlson said. “;It's a completely different role having to help everyone out on the field.”;

The SBC tournament starts Nov. 7 in Boca Raton, Fla.

“;It'll be nice to play in warm weather,”; Carlson said. “;Like back home.”;