When the Colorado State women’s soccer team took the field for the season opener against Colorado last week, it was the first time in the program’s five-year history that no one from the inaugural 2013 team was on the roster.
At the end of the 2016 season, the Rams lost seniors Kasey Dietrich, Amy Eckert and Jessica Jochheim, the last three players who had been with the program since it’s inception. Beyond being great leaders for the team, coach Bill Hempen said they did a lot of heavy lifting, both figuratively and literally, for the success of future teams.
“One of the things we talk to our team about as they’re laying the next layer of expectations for our team is that the kids before them did a lot of the heavy lifting,” Hempen said. “They literally carried stuff from practice and back on fields far away from the locker room.”
In their new on-campus home, this year’s squad no longer has to carry equipment across campus, but Hempen knows that the heavy lifting is not yet complete. Fortunately for the Rams, this year’s team may have the leaders in place to continue developing the program where leaders of the past left off.
“The reality is that the heavy lifting is not done,“ Hempen said. “This is a major construction project and I think that the leadership we have is the exact leadership we need.”
Among the leaders Hempen is referring to are senior captains Janelle Stone and Taylor Hodgson. According to Hempen, Stone and Hodgson were almost unanimously voted captains by their teammates because of their experience and the way they carry themselves on the field.
“What they say is what they’re going to do,” Hempen said. “How they prepare themselves and how they interact with the team is the way a Division I player is supposed to.”
Beyond the two captains, the team elected a six-member leadership council with representatives from each class, excluding freshmen.
“We have a leadership council going on right now with six of us, aside from just our captains,” senior forward Maddi Rodriguez said. “We’re really trying to step up and push the team, we know this is our year.”
Although the council pushes the team to succeed on the field, Hempen believes that the main purpose of the council is to instill the team’s core values: compete, sacrifice, unity, resilience, accountability, service to others and mindset.
“We all want to win, but theses kids have to leave here having grown and this is part of the growing up process,” Hempen said. “Our hope is that the byproduct of what we’ve been doing with our leadership stuff results in victories for our program, but if it doesn’t, I know that we’re at least building good citizens to leave and represent CSU well beyond this.”
Hempen doesn’t always instill a leadership council, but thought it was important for this year’s team that features 10 new players, eight of which are freshmen. Despite playing on a new team in a new environment, the newcomers are adapting well to the team’s core values.
“They [freshmen] are getting hit with the core values early,” Hempen said. “I think this is setting the tone for that freshmen class to carry this on for as long as the program is here, whether I’m here or not. I hope that those core values are Ram core values forever.”
Without anyone from the inaugural roster, the 2017 Rams tied Colorado and lost in overtime to Denver. Hempen says he will judge the success of the season based on how the team competes and upholds the core values, rather than wins and losses.
“We want to adhere to those values and if our competition in practice and our competition in games remains at a high level as it did on when we started on Aug. 2, what do you do from there?” Hempen said. “The goal is just to maintain as high a level of competitiveness, unity and team camaraderie as we can over the next couple months of high-level, high-competition games.”
The Rams are back in action for the third game of the Colorado Cup this Thursday when they take on Northern Colorado in Greeley at 7 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.