In what has been a difficult, and at times frustrating, inaugural season for the CSU women’s soccer program, Friday night was a chance to end the year on a positive note heading into the offseason.
The Rams did just that, tying local rival Northern Colorado 2-2 for their first positive result in the three rivalry games they’ve played this year.
On a bitterly cold night at UNC’s Jackson Field, Bill Hempen’s squad showed a level of toughness and resiliency that he’s been looking for all season. As he reflected on completing the program’s first year, a noticeable sense of relief washed over the legendary coach’s face.
“This team has fought all year. Whether we were down three goals or one, we didn’t stop fighting. But tonight these girls finally got rewarded for that ‘never say die’ attitude, and that was great for our team,” Hempen said.
For the Rams, their two goals came from an unlikely source, freshman midfielder Lizzy Gogolowski. On her first shot of her collegiate career, Gogolowski headed in a corner kick from fellow freshman Amy Eckert in the 7th minute. While Hempen and his staff weren’t surprised at the level of skill displayed by the freshman, Gogolowski herself was a bit shocked when Eckert’s cross came to her.
“I didn’t really expect to be scoring goals this year as a freshman, and it was kind of a shock but it just gives me a ton of confidence heading into the offseason and next year,” Gogolowski said.
CSU looked to add to its lead in the 18th minute but Carly Seib’s shot bounced off of the post and out of play. Northern Colorado (9-5-5) didn’t take long to respond when Juliana Grover stepped in front of a pass and blasted a shot past goalkeeper Maggie Sherman in the 25th minute. 10 minutes later, freshman Sydney Schroeder rebounded her own shot to put the Bears in front 2-1 before halftime.
After the half, Hempen took a gamble by going with freshman goalkeeper Elena Eidson off the bench in place of Sherman. The Bears turned up the attack in the second half and overtimes totaling 16 shots, all kept out by Eidson.
“Coming off the bench is always hard because you’re cold and haven’t really figured out the rhythm of the game yet, but it came to me pretty quick. I think it gave the defense a lot of confidence knowing I had their back and it gave me a boost knowing they had mine,” Eidson said.
The Rams offense patiently waited for their chance to strike, and Gogolowski came through again when she blasted a shot past UNC goalkeeper Natalie D’Aadamio from 10 yards out.
As they close the first chapter in the Colorado State women’s soccer history book, players and coaches alike are looking forward to a great offseason together as well as welcoming new faces to the program next fall. For Coach Hempen and his squad, this year has been an invaluable learning experience as they look to take the next steps into CSU soccer history.
CSU finishes their first season in program history with a 2-13-3 record overall and 1-9-0 in Mountain West Conference play.
“We didn’t really know what to expect this year with the late start, and bringing all these new players together but this year was a great learning experience for all of us,” Hempen said. “When I sit back and look at everything we’ve done this year, it ended up pretty darn good. I’m just really happy for these girls and ending on this note made the year a heck of a lot better.”
Women’s Soccer Beat Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.