The Colorado State women’s soccer team is scheduled for a pair of home matches this weekend with Southern Methodist University and College of Charleston on Friday and Sunday, respectively. The Rams will be looking to bounce back after dropping their last two home matches in shutouts.
Issues on the offensive end of the field have plagued Colorado State (1-3) in its two-year program history. CSU has struggled to produce goals in the early season, with the Rams’ sole score coming in their home-opening win over Northern Colorado. The Rams have attempted only 25 shots on the season, nine of which have been on goal. SMU already has five goals on 75 shots while Charleston has recorded 76 attempts, scoring nine of those.
Though the Rams’ biggest struggle is still producing goals, CSU head coach Bill Hempen stated that the defensive issues must be solved first.
Despite the newly-established CSU program playing a tough Portland State team that lost by only a goal in double overtime to #10 Texas Tech on Sunday, and the talent of Big 10 power Iowa, Hempen said “we were not very good defensively last weekend.”
“It doesn’t matter who you are playing against,” Hempen continued, “you can be a lot better than we were. We gave up four really bad goals.”
CSU’s defense looked resilient against teams with aggressive offenses earlier this season against Northern Colorado and Colorado, who the Rams held from scoring until the 75th minute, as well as last year, where the Rams posted a 2-13-3 record but played numerous teams to double-overtime and 1-0 losses.
But last weekend, there were several defensive letdowns by the Rams that Portland State capitalized on to cruise to a 3-0 win. In the opening minutes of the game, CSU let a ball lobbed into the air by Portland State come down and bounce over goalkeeper Jesse McGinley for an early goal.
Such badly timed errors plagued the Rams on Sunday against Iowa, too. CSU defenders allowed Hawkeye forwards to create far too many one-on-one opportunities with defenders and the goalkeeper, and the Rams found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 loss.
If Colorado State tunes up defensively, the Rams have will have a chance at coming away with a win this weekend, according to Hempen. The team has been putting a special emphasis on defending all week in practice.
“Hopefully it takes hold and we will stay in the game a little longer than we did last weekend,” Hempen said.
Southern Methodist (2-4) is coming off of a 1-1 weekend, losing 2-1 to Oral Roberts and beating the University of Texas-San Antonio Sunday with the same score. Last year, the Mustangs stampeded over the Rams with a 4-0 shutout in what was CSU’s third-ever match as a program.
But the Mustangs will miss Courtney Smith, a senior last year who racked up 10 assists, including one against CSU. SMU has given up 71 shots to its opponents this year, allowing 13 goals, which compares favorably to the Rams’ allowance of nine goals on 67 shots.
The Mustangs have a young roster featuring only five seniors and nine freshmen, including Claire Oates and Vanessa Valdez, who have led SMU’s offense, combining for 13 shots on goal.
When Colorado State faces College of Charleston (2-4) on Sunday, they will be up against another freshman-heavy team with 11 newcomers and only three seniors. CSU will need to keep their eye on one of those seniors, Sarah Cardamore, who has recorded 13 shots on goal herself already this season.
Hempen would like to see his defense bring traps and double teams earlier in their opponents’ attacks against faster players like Cardamore after watching Iowa’s Cloe Lacasse slice through one-on-one defense last weekend.
Though offense has been hard to come by for the Rams, Hempen doesn’t think outscoring teams in multiple-goal games will help them win.
“I don’t think we’re going to beat anybody 4-3, so we have to be a one goal team and defend,” Hempen admitted. “It’s defense first. It’s not necessarily entertaining that we’re going to defend, but at the same time we are trying to grow and still maintain what we’ve been trying to accomplish with the team overall.”
“You can be as aggressive as you want to be in the midfield and up front, but if you can’t put the ball in the net, nothing will happen,” Hempen added.
CSU will try to bounce back at home this weekend on the Lagoon Field, kicking off with Southern Methodist on Friday at 4 p.m. and again with College of Charleston Sunday at 1 p.m.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.