A&M Dismantles Arizona 7-2
Back in early September, Aggie Soccer was twice forced to come back from down a goal to settle for a tie against Arizona. For the better part of the first 15 minutes of Friday night's NCAA Tournament Second Round action at Ellis Field, it looked like history might just repeat itself. A&M needed a huge early save from Jordan Day 10 minutes into the game to keep the Wildcats from taking an early lead, and the Aggies were having trouble maintaining possession and getting into the flow of the game. In the 15th minute, though, A&M grabbed a goal and then seemed to switch into an entirely different gear. Before Arizona knew what hit them, the Aggies had built a 3-0 lead and taken complete control of the game.
The first goal for A&M involved a trio of seniors - Megan Streight played in a free kick from midfield; Bianca Brinson then flicked the ball across the 18, and Annie Kunz beat her defender to the ball and made no mistake with the finish. The goal came a bit against the run of play, but it completely sparked the Aggies and they never looked back. In the 18th minute, fellow senior Kelley Monogue ran onto a bouncing throw-in from Karlie Mueller, turned a defender beautifully, and perfectly chipped over Arizona's 'keeper from 6 yards out. Monogue wasn't done - just 2 minutes later, she got her head onto the end of a Leigh Edwards cross and directed it down into the far corner. Arizona probably felt like they had been hit by a train, but the Aggies still weren't done scoring in the half.
In the 32nd minute, Shea Groom got possession in midfield and made one of her patented runs at the Arizona back line before laying it off to Allie Bailey on the left side of the 18. Bailey fired a shot towards goal that took a slight deflection off a Wildcat defender and sailed into the back of the net. Bailey would make the scoreline 5-0 with just over 2 minutes before halftime, beating a defender in impressive fashion on the left side of the box and firing a rocket of a shot that just found the far corner of the goal.
If there was any concern about Arizona coming out in the 2nd half and making things interesting, Shea took care of that less than 2 minutes into the half. Groom carried the ball into the right side of the penalty area, wasn't closed down well enough by a defender, and fired a perfect shot into the far corner. Arizona senior Alexandra Doller would pull a goal back for the Wildcats in the 51st minute, getting her head to a long flip-style throw-in and directing it past Jordan Day on a play that the Aggie defense would probably like to have back. A&M would find their 7th of the evening in the 58th minute with Brinson cleaning up a rebound after Groom's header from a free kick came back off the post. Some generous refereeing in the Wildcats' favor led to a goal from a free kick for Arizona in the 65th minute, resulting in the final 7-2 scoreline.
Aggies Face Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen
The Aggies will now take on Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 at Ellis Field today at 1:30. The Fighting Irish took down Texas earlier Friday afternoon, needing an 86th minute winner to advance with a 2-1 win over the Longhorns. Notre Dame has a 14-5-2 record on the season, including a 7-2-1 mark in ACC Conference play, and finished the season 14th in the RPI. The Irish struggled in their first round tournament game against Valparaiso, waiting until the 90th minute to break the scoring seal and advance with a 1-0 win at the death. Notre Dame fell to Florida State, a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, in the ACC Championship game two weeks ago, but they came into that game having not lost in their last 6. Notre Dame also dropped close games at home to 2 of the other top teams in the ACC, falling 3-2 in OT against North Carolina and 2-1 against Virginia. The Irish did secure a big 2-0 road win against another Tournament team in Virginia Tech back in late September.
Notre Dame is outscoring opponents 35-16 this season, and their scoring has been very spread out across a number of players. Senior forward Lauren Bohaboy leads the Irish with 7 goals on the year, and sophomore midfielder Morgan Andrews has 6 goals and 5 assists this season. Five other players for the Irish have at least 3 goals. The Irish are anchored in the back by sophomore goalkeeper Kaela Little, who has allowed just 14 goals on the season for a 0.68 goals against average with 68 saves. Keep an eye on freshman forward Karin Muya, who hails from London, England, as she has pace that can cause defenders problems and was responsible for the game-winning goal against Texas as well as the assist on Notre Dame's first goal in that game.
Make no mistake about it - Notre Dame is a very good team, and they will provide a much stiffer challenge than either Houston Baptist or Arizona. But the performance we saw from this A&M Soccer team on Friday evening was as impressive of a second round NCAA Tournament game as I can remember watching. The Aggies are one of the most experienced teams in the country, and this incredible senior class is playing some of the best soccer of their careers at A&M right now.
One thing to keep in mind coming into this game is that Notre Dame had 7 field players who played 84 minutes or more in Friday's game. The Aggies, meanwhile, had just 3 such players - Groom, Kunz, Brinson and Cousineau all saw less than 60 minutes of action. Allowing some of their stars to rest and heal up could be extremely beneficial for an A&M side that has been banged up as of late. Janae Cousineau was back in the starting lineup in midfield for the Aggies against Arizona after missing the last 2 games with injury, and having her healthy is a huge factor in A&M's success.
How to Watch
The Sweet 16 game between A&M and Notre Dame will kick off from Ellis Field at 1:30pm Central time. Yet again, the game will be FREE for all Texas A&M students with a student ID. If you can't make it to Ellis, the game will be broadcast on SEC Network Plus, so you can watch online or via the Watch ESPN mobile app. The atmosphere on Friday evening at Ellis was awesome, so bring your friends, family, neighbors and anyone else you can find and come support the Aggies as they try to advance to the Elite 8! BTHO Notre Dame!