The Texas A&M Aggies clinched the South Eastern Conference West Division title Sunday with a 4-0 victory over Vanderbilt. TAMU moved to 14-2-1 overall, 8-1-1 in conference, and into 2nd place in the SEC behind Florida by just two points. Having no doubt unofficially locked in an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament at this point in the season, the Aggies will look to reach their peak, achieve consistency, and stay healthy in the final games before the post season.
“We want to win,” Coach G. Guerreri said just as the 2012 campaign began. Coach G. means winning every contest the Aggies play. This includes the SEC tournament. Despite having the larger goal of winning a national championship, the significance of winning a conference tournament is not lost on the seasoned coach in his 20th year.
But first, he winning continued on the road this last weekend when the Aggies traveled to Arkansas and Vanderbilt. With the disappointing 2-1 loss to Florida at home the week before, the Aggies worked to convert more of their chances. TAMU totaled 19 shots against the Gators but only found the back of the net once. They did the same against Vanderbilt, but this time pushed across four goals on their 19 shots. The encouraging takeaway is that the lower percentage against Florida was an aberration with their season shot percentage nearly tripling their opponents’.
“I was pleased with how were able to start right from the opening kickoff and establish possession,” Guerrieri said. “When our shooters are on we're a scary team to play against.”
Sophomore forward Annie Kunz leads the team with 10 goals on the season with sophomore Kelley Monogue not far behind having tallied nine on the year despite limited minutes early in the season. The former Big-12 Offensive Player of the Year regularly contributes, having illustrated that she is closer to feeling fully recovered from her ACL surgery in the Spring. Having shedded the heavier fiberglass brace for a less cumbersome stabilizer, Monogue demonstrated increased mobility, scoring twice in Friday’s 3-1 win over Arkansas.
“She's special in front of goal,” Guerrieri said. “We're lucky to have her.”
However, Kunz remains an equally dangerous threat on offense. She contributed 14 goals as a freshman for the Aggies in 2011 – a significant part of the NCAA’s most productive offensive team a year ago. The two forwards couldn’t appear more different with the six foot tall slender Kunz making long strides to get in behind defenses, revealing her dual role as a track athlete at TAMU with each bound. A 5’8” Monogue hunches over the ball, turning on a dime and ripping shots within milliseconds anywhere within 40 yards from goal.
“We just all want to score in the box,” Monogue said. “We have good tenacity to get the ball into the back of the net.”
A&M appears to have struck gold with these two sharing the most important thing in common – high percentage finishing. Most college teams count themselves lucky if they can develop one striker that has that scoring ability, to simply put everything away. The Aggies have two of these coveted forwards and a plethora of other weapons, including a formidable defense led by sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Day who set the school record for a single-player’s shutouts (10) in a regular season.
TAMU has just three regular season games remaining, facing Tennessee first at home on Friday at 7:00 p.m. before facing Georgia Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Ellis Field.