Hedrick: Expect even more success from CSU soccer in 2018

Christian Hedrick

2017 marked the most productive year in program history for the Colorado State women’s soccer team, but with a strong class of incoming freshmen and a roster loaded with returning talent, the Rams can look forward to another record-setting season in 2018.

Led by a foursome of Rams with three goals apiece, last year’s squad matched the single-season goals record of 14 before conference play had even begun. The Rams finished the season with 26, nearly doubling the record set in 2014. Finding that kind of production again in 2018 will not be easy, but the talent is already in place for another breakout year.

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Of the 15 goal scorers from a year ago, 13 are returning to the pitch in 2018, including all seven of the Rams who scored twice or more. Although freshman Ally Murphy-Pauletto broke out as an offensive threat with the program’s first hat trick against New Mexico State, the Rams relied on a balanced scoring attack with multiple contributors throughout the season.

That balanced attack did not just come from the usual forward position either. Among the team leaders last season with three goals, each of the three position groups were featured.

At forward, the return of Murphy-Pauletto with another year of experience will be a dangerous combination alongside CSU’s all-time leading goal-scorer Hannah Gerdin. The midfield, too, is returning a batch of talent led by freshaman Karli Eheart and junior Caeley Lordemann. However, the most potent position group for the Rams heading into next year will be defense.

Last year, the Rams’ defense played a dynamic role in shutting out conference opponents Utah State and Nevada. Offensively, defender Makenzi Taylor did a brilliant job delivering set pieces and led the team with four assists. Her defensive partner, sophomore Halley Havlicek, netted three goals while starting all 19 games. Havlicek’s emergence on and off the field last season also earned the sophomore a captain position alongside junior Kaija Ornes.

Havlicek, Taylor and the Rams’ defense made their greatest impact in conference play near the end of the season. If their development and chemistry continues on this upward trajectory, the Rams will be an even scarier matchup for opposing offenses next season.

Although the Rams are wrought with returning talent up front, in the midfield and on defense, they will get even better when the incoming crop of freshmen arrive on campus this fall. On January’s National Signing Day, the Rams inked six freshmen to join the 2018 side. Of course, projecting talent is never a guarantee, but this freshmen class has the makings to be the best ever.

According to CSU head coach Bill Hempen, what makes this incoming class special is that they all come from very successful club teams in Colorado and Texas. They are not just fringe players either. Each are major contributors for their club teams and are set on bringing those winning ways to Fort Collins.

Making an impact and adjusting to the collegiate level can be a challenge for freshmen, but Hempen has shown the ability to put first year players in positions to succeed. Last season, CSU freshmen accounted for a program-record 10 goals, or 38 percent of the Rams’ total offense. If the Rams can generate even half that production from this year’s incoming class, the newly minted goal record will easily be broken.

Along with scoring goals at unprecedented rate, the 2017 Rams also set a new mark for conference play with a 2-6-3 record. Although on paper the record is good for 11th in the conference, the Rams could have been competing for a top-6 finish and a conference tournament spot if a couple of results had gone their way.

CSU went to overtime four times in MW play last year and came away with three draws and one loss. If they could have found the back of the net, or held the lead in regulation time in at least two of those, they would have finished with the same amount of wins as sixth-place Air Force.

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Last year’s results prove that the current core of Rams can hang with anyone in the conference. If this group continues to develop and produce at each position, the infusion of incoming talent will propel the Rams to new heights in the record books and in the standings. 

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