The Texas A&M Aggies welcomed their first SEC visitors in South Carolina and Auburn to Ellis soccer field this past weekend. The new conference opponent showed the powerful SEC contenders the talented offense that secured the Big 12 tournament title in 2011.
Similarly, visiting Auburn captured the 2011 SEC tournament crown – their first – as the lowest seed in history when they defeated Florida in the title match despite squeaking into the post season with the seventh spot. However, the Tigers lost All-SEC selection senior Katy Frierson who greatly contributed to securing that win as she scored two goals in the 3-2 victory over the Gators. Frierson, in fact, left Auburn the all-time points leader and the 2012 squad has struggled to replicate the success of her class.
The Tigers ultimately fell 0-2 to TAMU as seniors Catalina Clavijo and Beth West scored their first goals of the season. The substitutes came off the bench and added energy to the labored starting 11, which began to show some fatigue after a tough Friday night match. The added speed late in the first half broke through the Auburn backline.
“Clavijo was in there at the end of the first half to try and put pressure on them,” A&M Head Coach G. Guerrieri said. “She and Bianca Brinson do a great job of having them try and rush balls out of the back. I couldn't be happier for those guys. Two great girls and two necessary goals.”
The Aggies continue to develop their young offense that surprised the nation in 2011 with sophomore Annie Kunz breaking away as this season’s troublemaker up top. With 2011 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Kelley Monogue still limited in her return from an ACL tear, Kunz has nestled into her starting role alongside sophomores Shea Groom and Allie Bailey up top and now leads the team in scoring with seven goals on the year.
Before Kunz put away a late insurance goal against South Carolina on Friday, fellow sophomore Meghan Streight scored the gamewinner in the first half off a corner. The defensive midfielder is a part of that sophomore class that makes up the top five on the team in points in 2012.
In addition to getting forward on offense, Streight and nearby center midfielder junior Jayne Eadie initiate the tenacity on defense that has limited opposing teams and their ability to push into TAMU’s defensive end.
“I thought we've been defending a lot better in the midfield,” Guerrieri said. “That's key to a lot of the things we're trying to do. Our midfield has been able to keep the other team at bay which makes it difficult for them to try and get any other balls behind us.”
The TAMU defense extended the A&M single season record for consecutive shutouts to six on the year with sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Day earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for her performance in the net. The record matches the current SEC record with Day’s 0.27 goals against average pacing the league and currently second in Division I soccer.
“I have to give so much credit to our defense,” Day said. “They've been doing so well in not allowing the other team to get off good shots. They've been really hard and powerful in their tackles and high balls. They've made life a lot easier on me by not having to make as many saves because they're doing the work for me.”
The Aggies moved to 10-1-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play. They will next face Kentucky away at 6:00 p.m. Friday before finishing the road stint at Mississippi State Sunday at 3:00 p.m.