COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Colorado - Colorado Springs women's soccer team has a roster comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores. Many of them have seen the field in 2019, due to a slew of injuries to key players.
For most teams, that lack of experience would be a setback. The Mountain Lions have turned it into an advantage, plugging versatile youngsters into a deep roster that has started the season 12-0-0 and holds the #1 national ranking in Division II.
"What we're doing with how young we are is remarkable," Mountain Lions head coach Sian Hudson said Wednesday at practice. "We only graduate four players this year. I think the future's really bright and the freshman are getting a ton of experience."
UCCS soccer has seen success ever since Hudson took over head coaching responsibilities in 2017. The Mountain Lions have made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching as far as the National Semifinal game in the 2017 season.
With a green roster and recent injuries to upperclassmen, the Mountain Lions are well ahead of schedule in 2019. The players attribute that to the chemistry between teammates.
"Our culture has been really tight this season compared to the last two years," captain Tarah Patterson said. Patterson broke her fibula and tore ligaments in her ankle just two games into the season, ending her junior year. She's since taken on a leadership role from the sidelines.
"Everyone is clicking off the field, and that's translating on the field. Everyone is super supportive and positive. Sky's the limit for us."
UCCS has breezed through their RMAC schedule, outscoring opponents 31-4 in their first eight conference games. A 3-0 win over #10 West Texas A&M early in the season catapulted the Mountain Lions up the rankings, before settling into the #1 spot at the beginning of October. Their next test is the biggest, and could decide the RMAC championship: a contest against #14 Colorado School of Mines.
But according to UCCS freshman scoring leader Kaitlin Hinkle, the game plan for Mines is the same for every team: keep possession, break the opponent down.
"We head into every game not thinking 'we're number one, we're going to destroy," Hinkle said. "We take every game one at a time, and just play as best as we can."
#1 UCCS will play Colorado Mines Friday at 5:00 p.m. from Golden, Colorado.