Standings tighten as CSU heads into crucial conference matches

Christian Hedrick

Sunday’s road win over Nevada kept the Colorado State women’s soccer team in the hunt of its first postseason appearance with just five games remaining.

The Rams collected a much needed three points last weekend to lock themselves into a four-way tie for eighth place with Fresno State, Colorado College and Utah State. These log-jammed teams are all chasing the elusive sixth spot for a Mountain West championship berth, currently held by Boise State with 10 points.

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CSU gets the first crack at Boise State on Friday afternoon at the CSU Soccer Field. The Rams’ previous two victories at the CSU Soccer field each ended 5-1, yet CSU coach Bill Hempen is not anticipating similar outcomes this weekend.

“Rarely do you get 5-1, much less two in one season,” Hempen said. “I think soccer is a one goal game, maybe two occasionally, so I completely expect these next two games to be close.”

The Rams have lost five games by one goal this season, but on Sunday CSU was finally on the winning end of a closely contested match, providing valuable experience to the young team.

“5-1 doesn’t really put you under that pressure to finish out a game,” Hempen said. “When it’s 1-0, no matter who the opponent is, the opponent is always fighting for that equalizer just like we have. Being on the other end of that moment was big for our kids at this point in the season.”

While one goal was enough to edge out Nevada on Sunday, the Rams know they will need more tallies to keep putting teams away in the Mountain West.

“Scoring early helped us out, but we have to get in the mindset that one isn’t enough,” CSU defender Halley Havlicek said.

This weekend, the Rams take on two teams they are chasing in the Mountain West in Boise State and Utah State. To cause problems for these conference foes, the Rams need more production from their forward group.

Lanning cuts up field with the ball on her left foot
Midfielder Alex Lanning moves the ball into Fresno State territory during the second half of action on Oct 1. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

“Alex (Lanning) scored a goal, but Alex is a midfielder and Mac (Makenzi Taylor) scores the free kick and she’s a midfielder,” Hempen said. “We have got to get consistent production from our forwards, and we haven’t gotten it.”

Part of the reason for the forwards’ lack of production is an absence of pressure on opposing defenders.

“In the grind, their defenders have to be like, ‘Uh oh, here she comes again,’ and I don’t think we have that,” Hempen said. “It’s hard to see our defenders have to deal with that.” 

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Hempen said that every team the Rams have faced this season has had at least one special player that’s been hard to deal with. On Friday, the most difficult challenge for the Rams’ defense will likely be Boise State forward Raimee Sherle. The 2016 Mountain West Newcomer of the Year’s seven goals in 15 games make her the second most proficient scorer in the league. More importantly, her six game-winners show her ability to perform in crunch time.

The Rams struggled to contain UNLV’s lethal strikers last Friday in Vegas, but CSU is ready for the challenge this weekend at home.

“Fortunately these are home games for us because that was a long trip,” Hempen said. “We’ll be ready for it. We’re excited for the opportunity to get back home.”

The Rams take on Sherle and Boise State at 4 p.m. on Friday and wrap up the weekend with Utah State on Sunday at 1 p.m. Both games are at the CSU Soccer Field. 

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