Utah State had no response to the Colorado State women’s soccer team’s suffocating defense in the Rams’ 2-0 win on Sunday afternoon at the CSU Soccer Field.
Sporting pink jerseys and matching pink socks for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Rams broke out of the gates on Sunday looking poised for their second Mountain West win of the season.
CSU’s crisp touches and early offensive pressure led to the Rams’ first scoring opportunity on a corner kick in the 12th minute. Midfielder Beth Plentl delivered the set piece to Alex Lanning on the goalmouth, but the midfielder couldn’t put the shot past the USU keeper.
Plentl splits set piece duties with midfielder Makenzi Taylor, but the junior showed she could assist on the fly in the 35th minute. Following a failed USU clearing attempt, Plentl caught up to the ball on the sideline nearest the CSU cheering section and sailed a cross to an unguarded Hannah Gerdin on the far post.
“I saw Hannah get to the back post and that point I am thinking, ‘All it takes now is a good serve,’” CSU coach Bill Hempen said.
Plentl’s serve could not have been better, as it landed right on the head of Gerdin who drove the ball past the goal line for her fist tally of the season. Though not a set piece, Gerdin’s goal was the execution of an orchestrated play.
“We were working on that back post run,” Plentl said. “Hannah’s very tall, so I just went for it.”
Three minutes later, the Aggies looked determined to net the equalizer on a run into the CSU penalty area. However, the Rams’ defense blocked all lanes to the net and forced Alecia Robinson’s shot wide. CSU’s stifling defense held the Aggies to just five shots in the first 45 minutes.
In the 51st minute, though, goalie Hunter Peifer was called on to make a big save when the Aggies drew a free kick just beyond the CSU penalty area. The free kick was heading towards Aggies’ leading goal scorer Ashley Cardozo, but Peifer emerged from her box and punched the ball away before Cordozo could get a look.
Before USU could get another shot at an equalizer, Plentl combined with freshman Karli Eheart for an insurance goal in the 63rd minute. This time on a corner kick, Plentl sent a low-flying line drive to the foot of Eheart, directing the cross to the right side of the net for her third goal of the season.
“We’ve been working on four plays and I call that the second play,” Plentl said. “It was a little far out, but it worked out perfectly because Karli was on the end of it.”
Though the lead was just two following Eheart’s tally, it seemed unsurmountable as the Rams’ swarming defense prevented the Aggies from gaining any momentum.
“There was a moment where I knew we were in good hands because they had switched the ball to play wide and all I could see was a wave of pink players coming across,” Hempen said. “I knew they weren’t going to let it in.”
Most of USU’s scoring opportunities came off set plays, concluding with a free kick in the 89th minute. Taken from outside the CSU penalty area, Peifer gloved the header for her third and final save of the afternoon.
The Rams’ shutout victory over USU marks the first result of any kind against the Aggies in the program’s five-year history, capping off a big weekend for the Rams.
“It’s a long time coming right there. We deserved to win that game,” Hempen said. “Any wins against teams like Utah State and a tie against Boise State are all great results for us as a program going forward. We’re pretty excited.”
The Rams head out west for a 1 p.m. showdown with New Mexico on Friday and a 2 p.m. match with San Diego State next Sunday.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.