The Colorado State women’s soccer team failed to earn points last weekend after giving up late goals to Fresno State and San Jose State. Given the unproductive weekend, this weekend’s matchups in the Silver State are that much more crucial for the Rams’ Mountain West Championship hopes.
With two points, CSU is eleventh in the Mountain West. They sit two points ahead of Sunday’s opponent, Nevada, and eight points behind Air Force in first place. While catching Air Force for the conference lead is a lofty goal, the Rams only need to finish in the top six to qualify for the Mountain West Championship.
The team currently sitting in sixth place is the Rams’ next opponent, UNLV. The Running Rebels, who were shutout by Air Force in their most recent contest, hold a four-point advantage over the Rams. Despite the loss, they have scored 26 goals on the season, eight more than anyone else in the Mountain West.
To have success against the potent UNLV offense, the Rams will have to correct the mistakes from last weekend and battle until the final whistle. CSU coach Bill Hempen used this week of practice to keep his team’s competitiveness at a high level.
“The battle doesn’t necessarily end inside the lines for us. It’s a constant battle throughout training,” Hempen said. “Maybe we didn’t do a good enough job last weekend because we kind of withered after the lightning delay and gave up a goal in overtime.”
Only UNLV and Fresno State have put up more goals than the Rams’ 16 through 12 games, yet Hempen and his staff are still not set on who they will use up front in the upcoming matchups.
“It stinks that we’re this far along and we don’t have a consistent group,” Hempen said. “I would love to be able to tell you there is going to be a starting eleven, but the good and bad news is the competition level is high and we’re still trying to find those players up front that can consistently put our opponent under pressure.”
No matter who is playing up front, the Rams have proven their ability to score this season. Hempen believes not being able to put teams away with a second or third goal is what has limited his team in the win column.
“When we got that goal against Fresno, we all kind of held our breathe like that was going to be the answer instead of continuing to play and strive to get that second goal that can demoralize a team,” Hempen said.
Collecting points against sixth place UNLV is crucial for the Rams’ Mountain West standing, but CSU needs 16 points in their remaining seven games to match last year’s sixth place point total. Sunday’s opponent, the struggling Nevada Wolfpack, present a golden opportunity for the Rams to rack up points.
Nevada currently occupies the bottom of the Mountain West standings without a point. The Wolfpack have given up 26 goals this season, while only scoring a total of five. Nevertheless, Hempen and his squad are expecting a tough matchup.
“Everyone is physical to a degree in our conference. Not in a bad way, but everything is an absolute battle,” Hempen said.
The Rams open up the weekend under the UNLV lights at 8 p.m. before heading to Reno for a 2 p.m. showdown against Nevada.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.