‘Iron Woman’ Jami Vaughn finishing Rams’ soccer career

Sam Lounsberry

Senior defender Jami Vaughn has played every minute in her career at Colorado State. Vaughn will play her final game on Saturday against rival Wyoming in Laramie.

She is Iron Woman.

She did not marry Tony Stark, but Colorado State women’s soccer senior defender Jami Vaughn earned the title denoting her endurance after logging her 3,000th consecutive minute on the field for the Rams against Fresno State Oct. 19.
The Iron Woman nickname stuck, as Vaughn has continued to avoid the sideline during matches.
Since she transferred from the University of Kansas after her sophomore season to play for Colorado State in its first-ever season last year, Vaughn has not missed a single second of playing time as a Ram.
As a junior last season, Vaughn played each of the 1,686 possible minutes for the Rams in their inaugural campaign.
The senior has yet to see the bench again this year, as she logged her 1,639th minute of the season Sunday in the Rams’ 105-minute double overtime loss at home against San Diego State on Sunday, extending her consecutive minute streak to 3,275 over two seasons.
That is the longest active minute streak in the Mountain West Conference among field players, excluding goalkeepers.
Before Colorado State announced it would field a women’s soccer program, Vaughn signed with the Jayhawks in 2011 after anchoring the defense of Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins as a four-year starter.
As a Jayhawk, Vaughn played in 13 matches her freshman season and 10 as a sophomore.
When Colorado State started its team last year under the leadership of head coach Bill Hempen, though, Vaughn returned home to become a Ram and an immediate stalwart for Hempen.
I felt that if Jami came back, we had a legitimate player that was capable of ‘you’re in, stay in,'” Hempen said. “I knew she would be one of those kind of players.”
Vauhgn had no idea her presence on the field would be so crucial before she arrived, though. The defender’s expectations were not necessarily for playing every single minute.
“I didn’t know who was coming in or what our team was going to look like, so whatever minutes I got, I’d play,” Vaughn explained.
With the announcement of her return to Fort Collins, Vaughn helped spark the commitment of another cornerstone for Colorado State’s young squad in fellow senior defender Catherine Ruder, who transferred to CSU from San Jose State to play for the Rams last year.
“Jami coming back was partly an incentive for Catherine to come,” Hempen stated. “You get that one player that people know from the area and the state, it causes (others to think) ‘OK, I’ll go play with her, that sounds like a good idea.'”
Together, Vaughn and Ruder established a defense for Colorado State that has become quite respectable in just two years. In the past two seasons, the Rams have registered seven shutouts, and in nine of their 27 total losses — 33 percent of the time — they have given up just one goal.
“Our first year, we hung with teams, but we defended all the time,” Vaughn said, explaining part of the reason Hempen was unable to substitute for her.
Colorado State won only two games as a first-year program last season, but Vaughn never showed frustration, according to Hempen.
The defender remained a poised leader through the struggles of CSU’s initial season, despite her familiarity with the well-established and successful Kansas program, which she helped lead to an NCAA Tournament appearance as a freshman.
“Jami as a leader has been very positive in pretty challenging times,” Hempen said. “She goes into every game and I see how she tries to pump the players up, saying that we are going to win today. It doesn’t always work out, but she has never shied away from being a positive influence.”
In the program’s second season this year, the Rams made leaps of improvement from last year’s 2-13-3 record, already doubling their wins with four. Their attack is much more aggressive and efficient, notching nine goals so far this season with the ability to control the ball more consistently to provide the Iron Woman with a few rare minutes of downtime in the back.
“This year, we had an attack going, we just didn’t click in certain areas, but we hung with the big dogs,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn will likely add another 90 to her impressive streak of over 3,000 consecutive minutes in her last outing as a Ram when CSU takes on rival Wyoming in Laramie this weekend.
“She’s got to be dragging a leg behind her or holding it in her hand for me to take her off,” Hempen joked.
The persistent resilience displayed on the field by The Iron Woman and her senior class exemplify what both Vaughn and Hempen hope  serves as a foundation for the continued building of Colorado State soccer once she and Ruder graduate.
“After the first year, the returners coming back, we all built off each other and thrived off each other,” Vaughn said. “I think the freshmen will build off our excitement.”
“She’s been a good one for us to have on our team,” Hempen said of Vaughn.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.