There’s no simple equation for instant success within an inaugural athletic program. For powerhouses like North Carolina, owner of 21 national titles, success has been built over time through great coaching, elite talent and upperclassmen leadership.
The first-year CSU women’s soccer program is comprised of a variety of athletes who showcase different skill and experience levels, yet also face the rigors of building a team from the ground-up. The inaugural Rams squad includes five Division I transfers, as well as ten high school recruits and a handful of players who have been out of soccer since their prep careers ended.
The group is being led by head coach Bill Hempen, who served as architect of the Duke University women’s soccer program that began in 1988.
“It’s still a process figuring out what they can all take in. We’re starting to learn everyone’s language and what they understand,” Hempen said.
The differences in experience and skill level is one that every player on the squad must adjust to, whether a high school recruit stepping up into the college level, or a transfer taking on a leadership role as one of the more experienced players.
“It’s exciting. I thought the transition would be a lot harder but everyone is coming together really well and we’re all figuring each other out and we hope as the season goes on, we starting clicking more and more,” junior Catherine Ruder, a San Jose State transfer, said.
As the team builds chemistry and becomes more comfortable playing with each other, the next goal is better play on both ends of the field, as well as turning opportunities into executions.
“We know what we need to do now, we’ve gotten our set pieces figured out, we know where to be defensively so hopefully we can put that all together,” sophomore Jessica Stauffer said.
Although the Rams are projected to finish last in the Mountain West coach’s preseason poll, there is no sign of the team being content with becoming a conference bottom-dweller. CSU has its goal set on turning some heads within the Mountain West.
“Honestly, we just want to prove people wrong. People expect us to lose and we want to show them we’re here to play,” Stauffer said. “Coach’s goal is to finish eighth (of 11), and we want to prove we aren’t the team to get an easy win against.”
The Rams picked up both their first win and loss in program history. They came out victorious 3-0 over Lubbock Christian on Friday before falling 6-0 to No. 24 Texas Tech on Sunday. CSU’s first home matchup is this set for Sept. 6 versus Grand Canyon University.
Women’s soccer Beat Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.