The University of Colorado Colorado Springs women’s soccer team is carrying a different approach to pressure into the postseason.
“The quote that we’ve been living by all season is that ‘pressure is a privilege,’” UCCS coach Sian Hudson said after the top-ranked Division II Mountain Lions wrapped up an undefeated regular season with a 4-1 win over Regis on Sunday. “If you’re not a very good team, you’re not going to have pressure or a target on your back so I think just the team’s really embraced that. I think we’re actually like sort of really enjoying that pressure right now.”
That looked to be the case Sunday when the Rangers scored in the 33rd minute to level things at the half after UCCS freshman Taeya Schueppert opened the scoring on an assist from classmate Jaden Davis 5 minutes in.
After a couple of Rangers chances early in the second half, the Mountain Lions pounced. Schueppert scored her second of the day, third of the season, in the 65th minute when she dribbled past a defender and found space for a left-footed blast from just outside the penalty area, slightly on the right side of the field.
“That’s one my spots I really love to shoot from,” Schueppert said of her game-winner.
“We don’t really take pressure that negatively. We kind of use it as a fuel to drive us to just be better. The pressure’s kind of fun.”
Left back Aleesa Muir took a pass from Zoe Sims and beat the Regis keeper for an insurance goal before Tanner Sanders capped the scoring on an assist from Caitlin Esterle in the 80th minute.
“I think once we got back together at halftime, we were able to collaborate a little bit and figure out what they’re bringing us and what we can bring to go at them,” Muir said, rating the team performance a seven out of 10.
The team’s tactical aptitude and ability to adjust on the fly is one of the things that Hudson believes makes her team special. The coach said Regis, which finished fifth in the 14-team Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, was one of the few teams that tried and found some success on the counter attack, something the Mountain Lions talked about during the break.
“I think the team has done a fantastic job this season of taking on broad tactical information and applying it. I think that’s one of the things that set us apart,” Hudson said.
“I think we’ll start to see a lot of those dividends now as get into postseason, the ability to change between formations and to just adjust to different teams’ styles.”
The postseason starts at 4 p.m. Friday with an RMAC Tournament quarterfinal vs. CSU-Pueblo at Mountain Lion Stadium. The hope is that the Mountain Lions will show well enough to earn the right to host an opening round of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“It’s exciting,” Muir said. “Our coach says all the time it’s a privilege to have a target on our back. I think we just think of it as something that’s exciting. A lot of teams come in thinking they have nothing to lose, but we have everything to prove.”
The hope for Shanade Hopcroft, who Hudson says is the RMAC’s best player after a 13-goal, nine-assist regular season, is that an undefeated run to the national tournament with two league championships would put the pressure on the opponents.
“Coming into the tournament, if we can, unbeaten, that means a whole lot,” Hopcroft said. “Mentally to other teams, I feel like they are going to be a little bit more scared.
But that being said, too, we’re going to have a big target on our back, so we’re going to need to stay playing for each other.”