Rams soccer transfers bring monumental season, eye top of MW

Bailey Bassett

Transfer athletes can do wonders for collegiate programs, and the Colorado State soccer team can attest to this. The Rams are having their best season in the program’s history thanks to a group of transfers that have joined the team.

Halfway through their season, they have a record of 6-3-1. Historically, the team has struggled to finish with a record above .500. In their seven year existence, they have never had a winning season. That is changing, and with conference play underway, the Rams are looking to take over the Mountain West.

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Part of the reason for the teams’ success is the influx of outside talent the Rams have received this year specifically, as well as over the last few seasons. Transfer students have been drawn to CSU’s soccer program in recent years, with six players who began their collegiate careers elsewhere coming to join the Rams.

Girl passes ball
Gracie Armstrong (9), a Colorado State forward, sends the ball to a teammate in a game against the Denver Pioneers on Friday, Sept. 13. (Anna Montesanti | Collegian)

Gracie Armstrong, originally from Broomfield, joined the Rams this year after one season at Washington State University. As a freshman, Armstrong was a contributor for a very good Washington State team. She played in seven games as a freshman and was a regular toward the end of the season once she earned her spot in the rotation. Armstrong even played in the NCAA tournament where she notched her first collegiate goal.

This season for the Rams, Armstrong has started every single game and has only played less than 76 minutes in one match. Armstrong has only scored one goal this season but has been the team’s assist maestro. Armstrong has been incredible at finding her teammates, and her unselfish play directly contributes to the team’s success.

She is the only Ram with more than one assist on the year, as she has recorded five assists in 10 games and is happy to be back in Colorado.

“I wanted to be close to home and have my family come watch and support me, and I definitely didn’t want to go to (the University of Colorado Boulder),” Armstrong said.

Sophomore Kristen Noonan is the other transfer that is making an impact in her first year as a Ram. She has proven to be one of the best players on the team. The California native is one of two transfers who didn’t originate from Colorado. Born in Porter Ranch, California, Noonan spent her first collegiate season playing for California State Fullerton. As a freshman, Noonan earned Big West all-freshman honors and was second on the team in goals with five.

“With (Noonan) coming to town from California, that was a big one,” Coach Bill Hempen said.

The forward is second on the team in goals with five. She is also second on the team in points, which are received when you get a goal (two points) or an assist (one point). The 5-foot-11-inch striker towers over her opponents, creating a big target for her teammates to pass to.

With her big frame, she has mastered the header and has specialized a box out move that prevents the defense from stealing the ball. Her aggressive play goes hand in hand with winning, which was highlighted by her game-winning goal against Valparaiso University.

https://twitter.com/CSUFutbol/status/1175205147699343360

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“There has been a lot of change that has happened in the last year,” Noonan said. “And all of these coaches and the team with their support has been incredible.”

Over the years, CSU has built an atmosphere that draws in transfers. Fort Collins native Baylee Bedard came back home last season from Kansas State University. She joined her sister Kelcey Bedard, who graduated last year as a track and field athlete, and her father Brian Bedard, who is the head coach of the track and field teams, at CSU. She has appeared in six matches so far as a defender.

After her freshman season at Wake Forest University in 2016, Addie Wright took a season off from soccer last year before joining the team this year. Wright has since become one of the Rams’ top defenders. Wright is third on the team in minutes and even has two shots on goal in five shot attempts as a defender.

Maddie Lesjak is also a Colorado native. Originally from Aurora, the backup goalie spent her first two seasons playing at Northern Iowa. Lesjak was Missouri Valley All-Conference second team as a sophomore and came to CSU last season. She spent her junior year as a member of the CSU club soccer team and joined the Division I team this year, backing up star keeper Gabi McDonald.

The team’s superstar Caeley Lordemann didn’t even start her career in green and gold. Lordemann was a freshman standout at Creighton. She started 16 out of 17 games and had four goals in her freshman year before coming to CSU.

Lordemann has since become perhaps the best player in program history. The senior is the captain of the team and a player everyone looks up to. She carries the Ram record for goals scored with 14, and that number only keeps increasing. Lordemann has a career-high of six goals already this season, including three overtime game-winners.

Women’s soccer Head Coach Bill Hempen talks with senior midfielder Caeley Lordemann (14) during halftime in the Rams’ win over New Mexico. Lordemann would go on to score the only goal in overtime. (Gregory James | Collegian)

Coach Hempen emphasized academics as a factor for bringing transfers to CSU, and he says a lot of it has to do with the majors the University offers, along with the desire for players to return home and play in Colorado. 

“A couple of kids are Colorado kids that just wanted to come home,” Hempen said. “There is a lot of places to transfer home to in Colorado, and we are very fortunate that a lot of them have chosen CSU.”

No matter the reason for returning, this soccer season has been special thus far. The culture of this program is evolving for the better, and the transfers are helping drive the change, but that atmosphere and the people that go to school here in Fort Collins are a big reason why even the athletes who weren’t born here are feeling at home.

“It’s been the greatest change,” Noonan said. “Everyone’s been super welcoming, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Bailey Bassett can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on twitter @baileybassett_.