On Wednesday, Colorado State women’s soccer coach Bill Hempen predicted a close, hard-fought game in the Mountain West conference opener at Air Force. Hempen’s projection came to fruition as the Rams and Falcons played to a 1-1 tie under the Air Force Soccer Stadium lights on Friday night.
Coming off a 12-day break without a game, Air Force carried the early offensive momentum on their home turf. Senior Brooke Rittmann nearly connected with forward Kaitlyn Cook for the game’s first goal, but CSU goalie Hunter Peifer gloved the early opportunity.
The Rams started to apply some offensive pressure in the 21st minute when forward Hannah Gerdin and midfielder Alyssa Yoshida subbed into the match.
In the 27th minute, Gerdin raced down the left flank and beat out a Falcons defender with a strong cut to the middle of the field. Gerdin had space outside the penalty area to get a shot off, but Air Force goalie Jennifer Hiddink read the play the whole way to make an easy save.
Through the remainder of the first half, the Rams peppered the offensive zone with speedy through passes and crosses, but weren’t able to connect for a tally.
On the other end of the pitch, Air Force established strong ball possession with short passes and calculated shots, yet couldn’t figure out Peifer and the CSU defense. The Falcons outshot the Rams 10-5 in the first half, but the CSU back line, led by Beth Plentl and Halley Havlicek, only allowed three of those shots to reach Peifer. The defensive pairing played all 110 minutes for the Rams.
“I bet if you asked Beth, she’d say she has the ability to play another half-hour,” Hempen said in a statement. “The overall physically of the college game really hit Halley last season, and in my mind, her jump from freshman to sophomore year is exactly what you hope players do.”
At the beginning of the second half, there was a scary moment for the Rams as senior Maddi Rodriguez needed to be helped off the field after suffering an apparent lower-body injury. Rodriguez never returned to the game.
Peifer and the Rams defense continued to fluster the Falcons until the game opened up offensively for the Rams. In the 63rd minute, Air Force tried to clear the defensive zone, but turned the ball over to CSU forward Alex Lanning.
With a careful touch, Lanning chipped the ball between forward Emma Shinsky and Hiddink who was rushing out of the Air Force net to challenge the shot. As Lanning’s pass was in midair, Shinksy and Hiddink converged on the ball, denying Hiddink a chance to get a handle and Shinsky’s momentum allowed the ball to trickle past the goaline.
“Emma’s goal was an effort goal, not a ton of pretty, but they all count,” Hempen said. “It was a result of her desire to score more than the defender wanted to stop her.”
Shinsky’s goal was also the first of her collegiate career, making her the fifth CSU freshman to score this season.
Seven minutes after CSU broke the scoreless tie, Air Force’s counter attack forced the Rams to concede a corner. Kaylee Shalongo took the set piece for Air Force, delivering it to the head of Angela Karamanos, who sent it over Peifer and into top of the net. Karamanos led all players with seven shots on the evening.
The Rams’ best chance to break the 1-1 tie emerged in the 83rd minute when Alex Lanning set up Caeley Lordemann for a one timer, but the midfielder couldn’t get a leg on the chance.
For the fifth time on the short season, the Rams needed overtime to decide a result. Gerdin continued to set up offensive opportunities for the Rams, but the overtime woes for CSU continued as the game ended in a draw.
“We battled tonight because we are competitors, and for an away first game, we got a point,” Hempen said. “Our opponent hadn’t played in almost two weeks and were excited to play, so for an away first game we’ll take the one point for sure.”
The Rams’ next chance to produce a Mountain West victory is Sunday at 1 p.m. at Colorado College.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.