Make no mistake about it, CSU soccer has plenty of fight left in them. Behind the leadership of head coach Bill Hempen and the attitude of the entire Rams team, the club believes they still have much to prove in the remaining three games of the 2016 season.
Last weekend was not kind to the Rams as the injury bug that has already forced Janelle Stone and Alex Lanning to miss time late in the season struck once again with injuries to Hannah Gerdin and Beth Plentl. Despite dropping both matches, CSU’s goal has not wavered in the slightest. That mental fortitude has trickled throughout the program and keeps the team focused on the task at hand.
“We still have something to prove to ourselves,” Hempen said. “I’ve had the conversation with our captains about it and our captains want to play to win.”
Although conference tournament aspirations are bleak, the Rams can still have quite an impact on the Mountain West Conference. The second place San Diego State Aztecs kick off the weekend on Friday afternoon. The defending regular season MWC champions and preseason favorites come into Fort Collins looking to jump UNLV for first place in the conference. After a slow start, the Aztecs heated up in conference play and come in having earned points in seven of their eight conference matches.
Sunday’s matchup against New Mexico is a crucial game for MWC standings as the Lobos sit two points behind the Wyoming Cowgirls for the sixth and final spot in the conference tournament. With the current tournament teams separated by just seven points, the Rams have the ability to make some serious noise this weekend.
“I told the kids that we can still have an impact on the conference,” Hempen said. “Whether it’s people getting in, not getting in, where they’re seeded in the conference. So we can have a say.”
The other driving force for the remainder of the season is a personal one for the Rams. History has not fared well against their three remaining opponents (San Diego State, New Mexico and Wyoming). They have the ability to reverse that trend this weekend.
“We have zero results against those teams,” Hempen said. “We’ve only lost to them. So we still have the opportunity to do something that we haven’t ever done before.”
On top of that, the team is still capable of their best finish in conference play to date. Sitting at four points, the Rams are one win away from recording their most conference points in a season and two wins from achieving their best overall record.
In order to accomplish that, the team will continue to rely on the leadership and resilience from its six seniors. Entering the final home games of their college career, that headship figures to be on full display when they take the field Friday.
“In conversation with them, they are steadfast,” Hempen said. “I’m grateful to all of those kids. All of them have special spots in my heart, mostly because…they never really wavered. Their spirits are high, their integrity is unbelievable. If all else fails, we are gonna try our rear-ends off and no one is ever gonna have a cake walk against us.”
The final weekend at home begins on Friday Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. at Lagoon Field against San Diego State.
Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_