Since its foundation in 2013, the Colorado State women’s soccer team has seen plenty of change. New members of the coaching staff, departing and incoming players and a change in attitude have promoted the prominence of the newly developed organization.
One thing that hasn’t changed? The leadership of seniors Amy Eckert, Jessica Jochheim and Kasey Dietrich. Now in their fourth year with the team, the final three players from the original 2013 squad look to bring a winning culture to CSU soccer.
Having been through it all before, it is now their turn to pave a path for success. As with any winning program, that starts with an aspect of togetherness, something that has evaded the team in the past.
“We’re more of a team this year rather than just a group of people put together,” Jochheim said. “We actually know each other a lot more and are connecting with everyone. There’s no cliques.”
The camaraderie that exists in 2016 can be traced back to the bricks head coach Bill Hempen laid in 2013.
“He’s just always been there for us,” Dietrich said. “He has been there through the lows, the highs, and it’s nice to have someone that you can always go to that’s been there with you through the full four years.”
That relationship has come a long way since the team’s first season, during which they played their home games at Fort Collins Soccer Complex. A return to campus and Lagoon Field developed the relationships of the entire team, and allowed them to set a precedent for home games.
“The first year we were trying to get the program off the ground,” Eckert said. “Our home games were like travel days because we’d have to go on a bus and go to (FCSC). But now we’re on campus and it’s just through those different changes, it’s changed for all of us.”
“We talk about setting a tone on our home games,” Dietrich said. “Not letting people win on our turf and setting a standard of, every game we are coming out full force and trying to win.”
“It’s getting better and better,” Jochheim said. “We’re becoming a better team.”
After three full years with the program, this year brings with it the opportunity to mentor the up and comers on the team. Working with seniors from past seasons has provided a base that they can improve upon.
“It’s nice to see what other seniors have done and what you can work on,” Dietrich said. “What you can use off of things they’ve done and just improve.”
Taking that improvement a step further is what these seniors are focused on. In their previous three years of existence, the Rams have failed to make the conference tournament. The newfound togetherness combined with the role that experience has played with this year’s team causes reason to believe that a change in culture is coming.
And once it does, that winning attitude is here to stay.
“I think this is the team,” Jochheim said. “If we’re going to go to the conference tournament, this is the team.”
“We hope to get to conference this year and make that a statement,” Eckert said. “‘Okay, now we’re in the conference. That’s a thing. Kind of set (future players) up for that mindset.”
A commitment four years in the making is an understatement for what they have done for the program. Originally coming in with 15 other freshman, Eckert, Jochheim, and Dietrich are the only three that have played it out until the end. It takes an extra level of devotion to remain with a team through its growing pains.
“It’s a big time commitment,” Dietrich said. “I don’t think everyone was ready.”
Despite the many ups and downs that come with the creation of a new program, all three agreed that the experience has been incomparable.
“A rollercoaster,” Eckert said of her time at CSU. “But I wouldn’t change it for a thing. Definitely put us out of our comfort zone, that’s for sure. But like you guys were saying, we got stronger from it.”
“This experience has been really good for me,” Dietrich agreed. “It’s made me grow a lot as a person. With all the lows, and then trying to pick ourselves back up, it’s been crazy.”
The experience that Dietrich speaks of was one that she wouldn’t have had otherwise, if not for the creation of the program back in 2013.
A Fort Collins native, Dietrich was originally planning on attending Colorado State as a student after giving up hope of playing college soccer.
“I wasn’t planning on playing college soccer,” Dietrich said. “I planned on going to CSU and then I heard there was a team coming.”
After getting information about the program from former player Megan Speed, Dietrich decided to give it a shot.
“She kinda let me know how I could get into it and I went to a couple of I.D. camps,” she said.
Unlike Dietrich, Eckert and Jochheim were both recruited by other programs before deciding to play for CSU.
Eckert, a Colorado Springs native and captain of this year’s team, originally signed to play for Northern Arizona University before Colorado State’s program came about. After she learned that CSU had a program, she changed her mind.
“I decided that I did want to stay in-state and that this was a perfect fit for me,” Eckert said. “I got a release from NAU and ended up here and I’ve been here since.”
Jochheim arguably took the biggest leap. Like many college students, the San Jose, California native made the decision to go out of state to an unfamiliar place where she not only did not know anyone, but was joining a brand new soccer program as well.
“It wasn’t coming to a brand new program that was scary,” Jochheim explained. “It was leaving everything in California and coming out here where I knew no one.”
Four years in a program that is still finding its way can seem like a long time, but Eckert, Dietrich and Jochheim all agree that their time at CSU has flown.
“It’s crazy,” Eckert said. “I still feel like a freshman.”
“It literally goes by so much faster than you think it’s going to go,” Jochheim added.
Whether or not the 2016 Rams do in fact qualify for the Mountain West tournament come November, Eckert, Dietrich and Jochheim’s time as Colorado State soccer players is running out, which bears the question; what’s next?
“I’m planning on staying in Fort Collins,” Dietrich said. “I’m planning on coming back and supporting the Rams. Probably playing in some rec leagues.”
“Somewhere fun, no competition,” Jochheim laughed. “You’ve got to stay near it, I mean it’s been in our life for what, probably 15 years now? You can’t just drop it.”
Eckert on the other hand has different plans.
“Later on, way later on if my kids want to play I’ll go to their games,” Eckert laughed. “I’ll be a soccer mom, I’m ready for that.”
Collegian assistant sports editor Colton Strickler and sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coltonstrickler and @ColinBarnard_