Loveland, Colorado- It was a tale of two games as #8 Colorado State Rams bested #14 Texas A&M Aggies by a score of 12-5. The first half was an intense battle for ground balls, while the second half was an offensive showcase for the Rams.
The Colorado State Rams pulled off to an early 2-0 lead after goals by sophomore attackman Cooper Kehoe (Stevenson HS; CA) and junior midfielder Conrad Scoville (Marquette University; WI), but sloppy play the rest of the first quarter allowed Texas A&M to score three unanswered goals to finish out the period.
The second quarter was the beginning of a different story. The Rams were starting to take advantage of offensive opportunities and the defense started to play lights out. Goals by sophomore attackmen Paul Larson (Columbine HS; CO) and Garrett Fugier (Regis Jesuit HS; CO) put the Rams in the lead, but the Aggies quickly tied the game half a minute later. With 22 seconds left in the half, Kehoe put the Rams up 5-4 on a man-up opportunity.
There was an evident change in the intensity of the Rams with each goal, but even more so after a nasty, but clean, hit by freshman attackman Stephen Unkrich (Mountain Vista HS; CO) put an aggie on the ground.
The third quarter continued with that intensity for the Rams. It was their best offensive and defensive showing of the season thus far, scoring five goals and giving up none. Larson scored two of his four goals on the day during the third quarter. Other players to score in the quarter were Kehoe and senior midfielders Joel Tromburg (Heritage HS; CO) and Justin Backstrom (Heritage HS; CO).
The Rams continued to outplay the Aggies in the fourth quarter, scoring their final two goals of the game while giving up only one easy goal while Alex Jacques (Bainbridge Island HS; WA) was out of net. Scoville had a career game as he scored his second goal of the game in the fourth quarter, with Larson scoring the other.
A week of practices that emphasized winning groundballs and riding the opponent undoubtedly helped the Rams win this game.
“We really wanted to work hard on our ride this weekend and it showed in the game that we put the extra effort in,” commented interim coach Alex Smith. “I thought we did a good job of just making it hard for them to get it into the box. Sometimes it’s not scheme, it’s just outworking the other team, and today we did that.”
Colorado State won 56 groundballs compared to 33 for Texas A&M. Winning so many groundballs allowed them to control the game, and gave them more offensive opportunities. Opportunities they took advantage of. The two quarters in which the Rams won the most groundballs, the second and third quarters, were the two quarters they scored the most goals in the game.
“Groundballs are always key and sometimes it seems like all the balls roll your way,” said Smith. “In our loss against Cal Poly it seemed like the opposite was true, but I believe that you make your own luck and when you work hard, good things will happen.”
“We made some good adjustments in the second half on face-offs and it was nice to get some control there,” Smith said referring to face-off midfielders Pat Miller (Air Academy; CO) and Scott Gelston (Air Academy; CO), who won a combined 6 face-offs out of 9 opportunities after the adjustments. “We’re not where we want to be in the middle of the field yet, but we are getting there.”
Colorado State goalie Alex Jacques (Bainbridge Island HS; WA) had only two saves on the day, but that was mostly because the Rams were playing solid on defense. Junior captain Andrew Stein (Columbine HS; CO) led a defense that limited the number of shots taken and forced most of the shots that were taken to go wide. The Rams put a lot of pressure on the Aggies by riding them on their clearing attempts, allowing them to be successful on only 12 of 22 clearing attempts.
The Colorado State Rams will play their next game on Sunday, March 8th at 11 a.m. at the University of Northern Colorado, followed by another game at UNC on Wednesday March 11th at 4pm before they head back to California and Utah over Spring Break.
“This is an interesting ‘home-stand’ for us since we haven’t been technically at home once and we won’t be for Montana or Florida this coming week either,” reflected Smith. “It’s awesome that UNC is letting us play those games on their campus, but it’s certainly not ideal to play a home game nearly 45 minutes from campus. The team has done a good job so far just rolling with the punches and doing the best they can given the situation. We’ve never played Montana before, but we are expecting a solid team that will challenge us defensively. For us, everything has to start there to continue being successful.”