CSU soccer’s most successful season ends with 3-2 loss to Wyoming

Christian Hedrick

Halley Havlicek’s two tallies weren’t enough for the Colorado State women’s soccer team to overcome Wyoming in a 3-2 season finale defeat at the CSU Soccer Field.

The Cowgirls have ended the Rams’ last four seasons in defeat, but this Border War battle illustrated aspects of the character and resilience that has guided CSU to a program best 4-10-5 record.

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Following a ceremony to acknowledge CSU’s five seniors, the fifth installment of the Border War opened as a fast-paced, back-and-forth contest. Both teams fought hard for chances, but an inadvertent CSU handball led to a penalty kick and an early Cowgirls lead. Like so many times this season, the Rams remained resilient and Halley Havlicek knotted the score at one.

Before the Rams could find a lead, Wyoming caught another break when Morgan McDougal struck a once in a lifetime shot through a crowded penalty area and past senior Paige Barndt in goal.

“A P.K. and a kid that may never hit that shot that she hits again ever,” CSU head coach Bill Hempen said. “All those (bounces) seem to go against us.”

The nature of soccer yields bounces, both good and bad, but Hempen and the Rams have mainly been on the unfortunate end of bounces in the most critical times throughout the season.

Although the Rams’ 4-10-5 record is a program best, who knows what it would have looked like if a deflected shot in the 98th minute at Denver hadn’t gone in; or if the ball had simply gone bar-in, rather than bar-out, on one of three shots that struck the post in a draw with Boise State.

Throughout the season, Hempen’s solution for overcoming bad bounces has been to just keep working and that’s exactly how the Rams responded when bounces cost them versus Wyoming.

Corner kicks were the most consistent part of the Rams’ offensive game in 2017 and set pieces salvaged the game again last Friday. Upon battling to level the score deep in the Wyoming zone, Lexi Swenson drew the Rams’ lone corner kick in the 63rd minute. Makenzi Taylor, CSU’s leader in assists and total points, crossed a pass to Havlicek who headed in her second tally of the afternoon and third of the season.

“I’ve been waiting all season for a header and I was unmarked and got one in,” Havlicek said.

The Cowboys weren’t fazed by Havlicek’s goal, however, and registered the game’s final score off an aggressive counter attack less than a minute later.

Although freshmen Karli Eheart and Taylor Steinke couldn’t convert their chances in the waning minutes versus Wyoming, these two have been key factors in the Rams’ most productive freshman class to date. Of the Rams’ eight freshmen, five netted a goal and five tallied an assist in 2017. Eheart and Ally Murphy-Pauletto scored three a piece for a share of the team lead with Havlicek.

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Bad bounces may have cost the Rams in the season finale, but perhaps the worst break the Rams had to overcome this season was losing Maddi Rodriguez in the conference-opening match at Air Force. The senior midfielder can be found all over the CSU record book and despite missing the last 10 games, Rodriguez still managed to make an impact on this young team.

“It’s tough when you’re a senior and you get hurt like that and you know you can’t play anymore,” Hempen said. “She turned it around and was as big a positive influence on the younger players.”

Behind Rodriguez’s leadership, the Rams proved they are a team that will battle through adversity and compete up until the very last day of the season. The score may not reflect it, but the Rams believe they ended their best season on a positive note.

“I think this is the best soccer we’ve ever played,” Havlicek said. 

Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.