After arguably the biggest win in program history, the CSU women’s soccer team was back at work this week in preparation for its final home matches of the year this weekend. Friday’s 1-0 win against Nevada not only gave the Rams their first Mountain West Conference and Division I win, but it also gave them a feeling of relief having their first win under their belt.
“I think there’s a little sense of relief, but now that we’ve shown we can win we have to keep doing it,” forward Sasha Pchenitchnikova said.
With the win at Nevada and one earlier this year against Division II Lubbock Christian, the Rams now look to get their first home win in program history Friday against Utah State. As Head Coach Bill Hempen and his squad look forward to this weekend’s game, the importance of winning in front of their home fans and ending their first year of MW play on a high note is not lost on anyone around the program.
“Our goal is to compete and play hard, we want to show our fans what we’ve done over the course of the season,” junior defender Catherine Ruder said.
Friday’s match will be only the fourth home match the team has played all season. As the Rams near the end of a season where they have traveled more than 8,000 miles on the road, trainers and coaches are doing everything they can to keep this squad healthy and fresh for their final five matches.
For Hempen that means sacrificing a practice day in each of the last two weeks to make sure his team doesn’t run out of gas in the late stages of the season.
“We trying to just manage this team right now. We don’t have the depth as a first-year program that some other teams do. We want to keep them fresh so that they have the opportunity to really compete both Friday and Sunday,” Hempen said.
For the Rams to get a win against Utah State they will have to produce goals against one of the better defensive teams in the conference. The Aggies (7-5-2, 3-2 MW) have only given up four goals in five conference matches this year and boast one of the best goalkeepers in the MW in sophomore Jeannie Woller. Hempen shifted his lineup in Friday’s win over Nevada by moving defenders Jami Vaughn and Ruder into the midfield and forward spots to create more goal-scoring opportunites, something he says is not out of the question again this weekend.
“We’re trying everything we can to generate some offense. If that means moving some players with more experience into those roles, we’ll do it. We want to win these last few games and if that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do,” Hempen said.
In Sunday’s match the Rams take on a Boise State team looking to rebound from a 2-1 loss Sunday to Fresno State. The Broncos (8-5-2, 3-2 MW) bring with them one of the best offenses in the conference, averaging 1.29 goals/game, second only to Wyoming. For the Rams to be successful they must slow down standout forward Brooke Heidemann, who is fourth in the conference with six goals this year.
With two tough matches ahead, the Rams hope a little bit of home cooking will be the right recipe for a pair of wins.
“It’d be awesome to get these wins at home in front of our fans. It’s a lot of pressure but it’s what we expect and we just have to come out and execute,” Pchenitchnikova said.
Women’s soccer Beat Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.