Makenzi Taylor’s goal in the second minute of Sunday’s match against Nevada lifted the Colorado State women’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory and their first Mountain West win of the season.
Though Taylor is usually the one setting up her teammates with goals, the Rams’ leader in assists proved she could finish, too, by burying a free kick past Nevada goalie Lauryn Horstdaniel on the first shot of the game. The junior defender’s goal in the second minute is the quickest into a match that a CSU player has scored in program history.
“We got the early goal and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” CSU coach Bill Hempen said in a statement. “We did a good job of keeping them in the game for stretches, but getting that first goal is as good as gold.”
Taylor, along with fellow defenders Beth Plentl, Halley Havlicek and Janelle Stone, played the entire 90 minutes for the Rams and caused problems for Nevada all afternoon. It took the Wolf Pack nearly 20 minutes before they were able to steer anything towards goalie Hunter Peifer and the CSU net.
Before the end of the half, Plentl came inches away from doubling the CSU advantage when the junior used her speed to break through the Nevada defense. While racing down the right side of the pitch, Plentl ripped a shot in stride to the far post, beating the diving Nevada goaltender. Instead of finding the back of the net, though, the ball deflected off the iron and out of bounds.
Peifer didn’t face much of a challenge from the Nevada offense in the first half, yet needed to make a difficult save early in the second half to protect CSU’s slim lead. On a play that began as a free kick in front of the CSU bench, the Rams had trouble clearing the defensive zone and Nevada forward Angel Meriwether found a lane to the net. Alone in front of Peifer, Meriwether aimed a shot to the far post, but Peifer dove to cut off the angle and kept the Rams in front.
“Hunter (Peifer) has done this a couple of times this year, making that save when there has been a bit of a breakdown,” Hempen said. “We’re still playing right now if she does not make that save. That was huge.”
Meriwether nearly tied the score for Nevada again late in the match when the Wolf Pack drew a free kick deep in the CSU defensive zone. From about five yards in front of the goal line, but well to the left of the penalty area, Meriwether snuck a shot through the tight angle and towards the crowded CSU net. Peifer saved the day for the Rams earlier in the half, but this time a CSU defender leaped to get a body on the shot and keep Nevada off the board.
Nevada managed three free kicks in the final three minutes, but the Rams held on for their first conference win and first win on the road. The Rams put up 10 goals in their previous victories, but grinding out close games like they did Sunday may be the key to success for CSU down the stretch in conference play.
“This was a great lesson for us on how to win this kind of game,” Hempen said. “That’s how every game in this conference is. Just like this, if we can get out front and then grind it out, we will take it.”
The Rams come back home to the CSU Soccer Field for a weekend series beginning with Boise State on Friday at 4 p.m. and then wrapping up with Utah State on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChristianhCSU.