After a season full of heartbreaking losses and close calls, CSU head coach Bill Hempen decided to roll the dice and shift his lineup, and what better place than the gambling capital of the world?
Hempen’s risk paid off as the Rams played with a crisp attacking style en route to their first Division I win Friday night against Nevada. Sasha Pchenitchnikova’s goal in the 38th minute off of a thru ball by Amy Eckert was all the Rams needed to secure the biggest win in program history to date.
After moving defender Jami Vaughn into the midfield late against New Mexico, Hempen moved Vaughn into the forward position as well as playing junior defender Catherine Ruder into the midfield. The move paid off with the Rams playing the majority of the first half on the attacking half of the field and eventually leading to Pchenitchnikova’s goal in the 38th.
Following three consecutive 3-0 losses to Wyoming, San Diego State and New Mexico, the Rams’ defense pitched a shutout, holding the Wolfpack (4-7-3, 2-3 MW) to only two shots on goal. Nevada began the second half with a greater sense of urgency but were unable to put anything past CSU goalkeeper Maggie Sherman. CSU did not manage any shots on goal in the second half but their solid defense along with two Nevada shots hitting the post allowed them to escape.
As the Rams celebrated their first Division I win in program history, Hempen could not help but feel a collective weight lifted off of the team’s shoulders.
“I’m just so happy for the girls, I’m proud of these kids because you keep pushing them and then the reward finally comes,” Hempen said.
CSU traveled across the state to play another Mountain West match against UNLV (7-6-2, 2-3 MW) Sunday afternoon. Unlike Friday’s match, CSU was pushed into the defensive half of the field in the first half while UNLV registered 11 total shots and four on goal. Goalkeeper Maggie Sherman stymied the Rebels for the better part of 70 minutes until Rebel freshman Dakota Blazak scored off of a corner kick. The Rams (2-9-2, 1-4 MW) managed only two shots on goal for the game, but gave one of the better teams in the Mountain West all they could handle.
The Rams return home for a pair of Mountain West match-ups against Utah State (7-5-2, 3-2-1 MW) Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., and Sunday against Boise State (8-5-2, 3-2-0 MW) at 1 p.m. Both games will at the Fort Collins Soccer Complex.
Women’s Soccer Beat Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.