Since Colorado State women’s soccer team was formed in 2013, the San Diego State Aztecs have ruled the Mountain West. The Aztecs entered the 2016 season as four-time defending Mountain West champions, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in 2016.
With conference play beginning on Friday, the Mountain West looks like it is up for grabs.
After finishing sixth in 2015, the UNLV Rebels enter conference play in 2016 with the best record of any Mountain West team at 7-2-0. Hot on the Rebels’ heels are Air Force (4-2-1), Fresno State (5-3-0), New Mexico (4-2-2), and closing out the top five is San Jose State (3-2-3).
After a disappointing weekend in which Colorado State (2-5-1) went 0-1-1, they enter with the 10th best record, one spot ahead of the defending champion Aztecs (2-5-0) and two spots ahead of Boise State (1-7-1).
The Mountain West preseason coaches’ poll released back in April predicted San Diego state to finish first yet again in 2016.
The Aztecs, who got off to a somewhat slow start last year due largely in part to a tough non-conference schedule, can’t fall back on that excuse this year. Having only scored four goals thus far, the Aztecs two wins have come over Cornell and Weber State. The Aztecs have also failed to score in every game they have lost.
The Mountain West hasn’t been kind to the Rams in the previous three seasons. Before going winless in conference play in 2015, the Rams won only three conference games in the two years prior.
Despite their struggles in years past, head coach Bill Hempen said that his team is ready to take on the conference.
“I feel really good heading into conference,” he said. “More so than even for any games we have played this year.”
The Rams will get the chance to get conference play started on the right foot this weekend, when they hit the road to take on Utah State (4-4-0) and the last place Boise State Broncos.
If the Rams can go on the road and steal a game, Hempen knows his team could turn a few heads.
“If one team can impose their will, as far as their game plan and how they choose to play over the other then we have a chance,” Hempen said. “For our kids to believe in what we’re trying to do in being more confident will allow us to hopefully have some form of success this weekend.”
Ther record may not show it, but the Rams have competed up until this point of the season. Hempen continuously praises his team for their efforts. That effort will play a big role as the Rams attempt to tackle a tough conference.
In the same poll that predicted the Aztecs would finish first this season, the Rams received only 19 votes, thus predicting them to finish last for the fourth straight season.
When the Rams take the field on Friday in Logan, Utah to begin conference play against Utah State (4-4), they will do so with very little expectations something that Hempen hopes will help fuel his team.
“We have zero, nothing to lose,” Hempen said. “No one expects anything from us.”
Collegian assistant sports editor Colton Strickler can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coltonstrickler