CSU soccer enters crucial weekend of conference matches

Colton Strickler

The Colorado State soccer team is coming off an up-and-down weekend.

After defeating Nevada 1-0 in double overtime to earn their first Mountain West victory in over a year, a confident Colorado State (3-8-1, 1-3-0 MW) team fell 2-0 at the hands of UNLV, the current top dog in the conference on Sunday.

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As they have done with so many other teams this season, the Rams went toe-to-toe with the best team in the Mountain West after beating the Wolfpack out right. Despite splitting the weekend series, Colorado State outshot their opponents 31-19.

“Obviously we are creating more chances,” head coach Bill Hempen said on Wednesday. “Generating more opportunities certainly enhances our chances of sneaking one in.”

The Rams are generating opportunities at the perfect time. Only four games into conference play, the Rams are only one conference game back from both Colorado College (6-6-0, 2-2-0 MW) and Air Force (6-4-1, 2-2-0 MW), their upcoming opponents heading into the weekend.

The two-game series this weekend will be the second of back-to-back home games for Colorado State, a rare occurrence in conference play, and the perfect chance for the Rams to get back in the swing of things in the Mountain West.

“As we navigate this conference, it seems as though everyone is beating everybody else.” Hempen said. “It’s not like, ‘oh they beat them so that must mean we can beat them’ or something like that. We’re certainly not taking anything for granted here knowing that every game in the conference is knock down drag out for sure.”

The Rams will face Colorado College on Friday, and Hempen knows that the key to Friday’s game is to rattle the opponent.

“In Colorado College we face a very technical team that relies on their technical ability and their tactical awareness,” he said. “I think that will be a challenge for us to kind of get them out of their comfort zone from a defensive standpoint and if their is a weakness, try to attack the weakness as quickly as we can.”

Despite starting against Utah State and Boise State on Sep. 23 and 25, this weekend’s series will be junior goalkeeper Paige Brandt’s second weekend in net as the full-time starter. Brandt earned her first victory of the season as a keeper in the Rams’ 1-0 double overtime victory over Nevada.

“She’s done a good job,” Hempen said of Brandt. “She has not been a factor in losing and has been a factor in winning.”

Last weekend’s slate of games marked the halfway point of the season. While the first half of the season didn’t go as planned for the Rams, they are beginning to turn it on with the final seven games in their crosshairs.

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“I’m continuously reminded about the process that it takes even though as a coach you want it to happen a whole lot quicker,” Hempen said. “When reminded of where we are we’re probably in a good spot of the growth of the program. From a coaching standpoint, we’re far away from where I want to be. We’re trying to get to that middle ground right now as quickly as we can so that instead of talking about winning we are actually doing some winning.”

The Rams will continue their home stand on Friday with an “orange out” against Colorado College at 3 p.m. at The Lagoon.

Collegian assistant sports editor Colton Strickler can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @coltonstrickler