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Nail-biter loss shows Rams soccer can hang with the best

The+Colorado+State+University+soccer+team+huddles+together+before+the+game+against+the+United+States+Air+Force+Academy+Oct.+15.
Collegian | Paige Molenkamp
The Colorado State University soccer team huddles together before the game against the United States Air Force Academy Oct. 15.

Liv Stutzman just sent out a message to the entire Mountain West: Colorado State soccer will not go down without a fight.

The Rams stepped onto their home field for one last time this season to face San Diego State last Sunday, Oct. 22. Coming off a last-minute win against New Mexico, all eyes turned to how the Rams would fare against the top team in the conference.

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Unfortunately for the Rams, Aztecs’ Denise Castro knocked in a shot in the 85th minute of the match, and despite getting a few promising looks on goal in the final minutes, they couldn’t pull off another last-minute goal, resulting in a 3-2 loss.

“I’m really proud of our players’ fight,” head coach Keeley Hagen said. “We were true to our style and got some opportunities there at the end of the game.”

Each team benefitted from some great looks on offense, but stellar defensive performances kept the danger to a minimum. Kenady Leighton, one of the players honored as part of Colorado State’s Senior Day, provided many crucial stops to keep the Aztecs offense from getting any easy shots.

“I just love how our team fights,” Hagen said. “We’re going to continue to build on that.”

The Rams came into the match knowing their defense was going to be tested heavily. SDSU stood tied for first with Boise State in the Mountain West rankings, with 22 goals scored so far this season before the match. The Rams, however, came prepared and ready to fight for the full 90 minutes.

“They have a dynamic front five for sure,” Hagen said. “You’ve got to win your duels. We’ve been working on that every week.”

The highlight of the game for the Rams was a career-high day for Stutzman. Accounting for the Rams’ only two goals, Stutzman’s relentless attack in critical moments kept the Rams within fighting distance and proved that the entire Colorado State team is a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we really gave them a hard time today and exposed their vulnerabilities,” Stutzman said. 

Stutzman knocked her first goal of the afternoon off her head in the 45th minute, tying the game right before halftime. She then burst out of the gates directly after halftime, responding to an Aztec goal with another of her own, this time being assisted by Hale Otto, another player being honored for CSU’s Senior Day.

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“(I was) just getting myself in good places,” Stutzman said. “Everyone was in the right place and (the ball) just happened to come to me.”

Despite the intense battle from the Rams, the Aztecs still dealt enough blows to pull away with a victory, keeping them atop the Mountain West standings as the Mountain West tournament approaches.

The Aztecs’ first goal of the match came after Kiera Utush drilled in a penalty kick past a diving Shayna Ross after a handball was called on CSU.

“I think (the loss was) a little bit self-inflicted on our part,” Hagen said. “(We’ve) just got to clean up some of those mistakes as we go into our last game.”

The Rams will head over to Laramie, Wyoming, to take on Wyoming 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, for their last game before the Mountain West championship tournament.

Will Engle can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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