With two wins and a draw in their last three Mountain West matches, the Colorado State women’s soccer team is playing its best soccer in program history.
CSU’s sudden resurgence may come as a surprise to those merely observing the conference standings, but head coach Bill Hempen has touted this group’s ability to compete with the Mountain West’s best throughout the season.
The Rams proved their coach was onto something by earning draws in their first two matches and dropping close games to top teams like San Jose State and Fresno State. But since their Oct. 8 match at Nevada, the Rams have backed up their coach’s words with wins.
“We kept telling them they are good enough to compete in this conference, but words are one thing and actions are another,” Hempen said. “In getting the win on Sunday and competing the way we did on Friday, the actions kind of replaced the words and I think they’re looking around saying, ‘Hey we can do this.’”
A portion of the Rams’ recent success and confident attitude can be attributed to the growing communication and familiarity within the team.
“The more comfortable you are with the person standing next to you, the better it’s going to be for your team,” Hempen said. “We’re getting better and better at communication, as the core of players that we’re relying on the most are getting more used to their role.”
Along with familiarity and trust, focusing on the task at hand has been key for this year’s group. Though CSU is still alive for their first Mountain West Championship with just three games remaining, the Rams’ attention has not shifted beyond taking care of their next opponent.
“I think this particular group of Rams (has) done a great job of staying focused from one day to the next,” Hempen said. “This has been by far the best group that we’ve had and I think that’s helped us get to where we are.”
The Rams spent Wednesday’s practice focusing on themselves, according to Hempen, but will shift their attention to New Mexico and San Diego State for the remainder of the week.
One area the Rams will have to address leading up to Friday’s match versus New Mexico is containing one of the league’s top goal scorers, Claire Lynch. If the Rams can contain the conference leader in game-winning goals, getting around the league’s most disciplined defense will be the key to victory over the Lobos. The Lobos’ 15 goals against place them in a tie with Air Force and Fresno State for the least amount conceded in the league.
“At New Mexico we’re going to get a well coached, disciplined team playing at home and we’ve got to steal one on the road,” Hempen said.
On Sunday, the Rams take on the preseason conference favorites, San Diego State. The Aztecs got off to a strong start in the Mountain West with a convincing 3-0 win over Nevada. Since then, inconsistency has dropped them to fifth in the conference with 14 points. Regardless of SDSU’s form, Hempen is anticipating another close Mountain West match.
“I know that every coach is going to say this, but this is a competitive conference,” Hempen said. “Every game is competitive. (Last weekend) we were more competitive than we’ve ever been and that’s what we’re going to get at New Mexico.”
The Rams kick off from New Mexico at 1 p.m. on Friday and head out to San Diego for their final road match of the year on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.