Colorado State’s women’s soccer team is back at home for two conference matches this weekend against in-state rivals and Colorado Cup competitors Air Force and Colorado College on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
Free food will be provided to fans at both matches. The first 100 students in attendance Friday will receive pizza with their student IDs, and fans are encouraged to wear orange for an “Orange Out” at the Lagoon Field.
Sunday’s match with the Colorado College Tigers is “Kickoff to Homecoming” for CSU, and free barbecue will be available to the first 100 fans.
The match with Air Force will be CSU’s last in the Colorado Cup, a series of matches between the state’s six Division I women’s programs: Colorado State, Air Force, Colorado College, Northern Colorado, the University of Denver, and Colorado. CU has already finished its three Cup matches this year, notching a perfect 3-0 with wins over CSU, Northern Colorado and Denver for a first place standing in the series’ fourth annual season.
Colorado State is currently fifth in Cup standings with a 1-1 record, but the match with the Air Force Falcons provides a chance to move up the standings to second, right behind the Buffs.
The Colorado Cup highlights the state’s biggest competitors, and gives CSU the opportunity to prove itself as a serious program in the state in only its second season. Wins over in-state rivals provide clout for programs in recruiting, especially out of talent-rich Colorado high schools.
“I don’t think we’re going to win it (the Colorado Cup) this year,” CSU head coach Bill Hempen said after CU locked up its undefeated series record last month. “But like our conference, we don’t want to end up at the bottom.”
“If we beat Air Force, or we beat Colorado College, I’d be interested to see what kind of dynamic that adds (to recruiting),” Hempen said. “Winning in general (over any team) helps.”
And, two wins this weekend would certainly be helpful to the Rams’ hopes for the rest of this season. Making the Mountain West postseason tournament has been in the team’s sights all year, but the Rams must finish at least .500 in the conference to seal a bid. Through two weeks of conference play, CSU is 1-3 in the Mountain West, but has seven more matches – three at home – to make the .500 mark.
Though Air Force was picked to finish last in the conference by Mountain West coaches, the Falcons have stormed into the 2014 season, opening up conference play with two wins over Boise State and Utah State before tying New Mexico and giving annual conference bully San Diego State a double-overtime scare in a 3-2 loss last weekend.
“In all my years in Colorado, when playing against any service academy, your hands are full with the heart and desire those teams have,” Hempen said of Air Force. “Once they believe they can win, they are hard to deal with.”
The Falcons have started the season 5-5-1, going 2-1-1 in the Mountain West. Freshman Angela Karamanos has led the the way for the Falcons with six goals and two assists so far on the season.
“Right now they have a very confident, very fit, very team-oriented group,” Hempen continued. “That’s going to be as big a challenge as anything is making them not believe in themselves as much over a period of time during the match.”
Sunday’s match with Colorado College will be the Rams’ first against the Tigers as a member of the Mountain West. Colorado College women’s soccer joined the conference this year after playing in Conference USA, which it topped with an 8-1-1 conference record last season. The Tigers ended 2013 hosting Duke in a loss on penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers have transitioned smoothly to the Mountain West, starting out 2-1-1 in the conference for a current third place standing.
Hempen expressed the dire need for his team to capture conference victories in home opportunities the opening weekend, noting that the Rams must get at least two wins on the road to earn a post-season appearance after losing one at home to UNLV.
The Rams finished 0-2 last weekend on the road at Boise State and Utah State.
Despite the loss to the Aggies, Hempen said his young team made strides against Utah State on Sunday that he hopes to see applied in matches with two tough opponents this weekend.
“Believe it or not,” Hempen said, “I think we took a giant step forward on Sunday in what we were capable of doing and how we were beginning to understand movement off the ball, and who goes where when, and how its recovered defensively.”
“It was fatigue as much as anything else that gave up the goal (to Utah State in 84th minute),” Hempen added. “You don’t really appreciate being at home until you’re on the road. Hopefully being home this weekend will raise our excitement level.”
CSU will take on Air Force at 4 p.m. Friday on the Lagoon Field, and the Rams kick off homecoming week with the Tigers Sunday at 1 p.m.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.