The road is becoming a very familiar place for the CSU women’s soccer team.
Only three weeks in, the Rams have spent more time traveling than most do in an entire season. After this weekend’s road matches CSU will have traveled 6,242 miles roundtrip. These trips include visits to Houston and Lubbock, Texas as well as Flagstaff, Arizona and Fargo, North Dakota.
Once the process of hiring Bill Hempen as head coach was out of the way in February, the Rams began building a schedule. However with CSU being a first-year program, it had to schedule the majority of those games on the road this year. But as with any challenge in sports, teams must adapt and overcome.
For student-athletes, one of the biggest challenges that comes with travel is managing schoolwork, as well as being successful on the field. Experienced players like junior Catherine Ruder have taken a leadership role to help the younger players on and off the pitch.
“I’ve tried to help them with time management. I have a class with a few of the freshman, so I try to get everyone together to study together,” Ruder said.
For younger players like freshman goalie Elena Eidson, it has been a big change missing classes because of multiple day road trips instead of the hour-long trips to play local high school teams.
“It’s definitely an adjustment, but it’s nice because we’re all missing class and having to catch up on homework. When we’re on the road, we’ll all go into someone’s room, and we’ll all sit down and study,” Eidson said.
Although missing class and fatigue from traveling can make road trips tough, players and Coach Hempen believe that the time spent together has served as a bonding experience.
“We’re six weeks into this thing and you can see signs that they understand each other a little better and we are playing better and more fluid as a team,” Hempen said.
As their time spent together has increased, the team has found different ways to incorporate bonding into simple activities like changing roommates for every trip and sitting with different people at dinner. These seemingly simple activities have created bonds between players and coaches that have led to a family-like feeling within the program.
As the Rams look forward into their final weekend of non-conference play and into the conference schedule, Hempen hopes to impart some of his knowledge on the team and see his older players step into a larger leadership role.
“Once we begin conference play, we’ve got a chance to do something special playing against a certain group of teams and that’s when I’ll need the more experienced players to really step up,” Hempen said.
As the Rams head back out onto the road Thursday, they’ll look to keep improving and bring back an even better squad for their home fans to enjoy.
“We like to play on the road because it gives us a chance to get better and then come home and show that to our fans,” Eidson said.
Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.