SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The 21st-ranked and second-seeded Texas A&M soccer team blanked No. 6 seed Missouri, 3-0 Friday in the semifinal round of the Big 12 Tournament at the Blossom Soccer Stadium.
The Aggies (14-5-2) advance to their first Big 12 Tournament final in two years, facing the No. 1 seed, undefeated Oklahoma State (19-0-2) at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Aggies and Tigers last faced in Columbia, Mo., earlier this season in a game that resulted in a 0-1 loss for A&M, the team's only loss in regular-season conference play. The Aggies' 3-0 victory tonight marks the largest margin of victory in the tournament.
"It feels great for our players to get a little bit of redemption over our only loss in the conference," head coach G Guerrieri said. "I thought Missouri really played well, especially in the first half. They had us on our heels for some stretches. Really three great goals by our players can change the momentum of everything, though I thought that in the second half we came out with a better commitment to do the things we had to do to get the result, evidenced by the statistics in the second half. That was much more what we were looking for."
The Aggies broke into the attack from kickoff, with junior Nora Skelton bringing the ball down the left flank in search of an early goal. Skelton was unable to break past the Missouri defense, but the Aggies continued to control the rate of play.
A&M found the early goal it was searching for in the 16th minute. Skelton crossed to junior Beth West, who slotted a pass to senior Merritt Mathias. Mathias edged the ball closer to the goal and fired from the top of the 18-yard box, sinking the shot into the back right corner of the net as A&M took a 1-0 lead.
Mathias struck again seven minutes later, breaking past defenders from the opposite end of the field before shooting 18 yards from goal and send the ball just a hair wide to the near side. Freshman Meghan Streight also sent a shot wide, heading the ball on a set piece in the 27th minute, before freshman Annie Kunz had a close call that also went wide.
In the 32nd minute, junior Lyndsey Gnatzig sent a ball in to Kunz, who shot on a touch-and-turn from inside the 18-yard box. Kunz's shot skimmed the near-side netting on its way out.
The second period started with the Aggies again controlling possession of the ball from the very beginning. Mathias looked hungry for a second goal on the night, collecting a pass from Monogue and firing a shot from point-blank range that was blocked by a Mizzou defender.
Skelton continued the intensity, again picking up a pass from Monogue in the 51st minute and taking a look at goal. Skelton's first shot from inside the six-yard box was blocked but the forward followed through, sending a second shot into the side netting.
Monogue found herself on the shooting end just two minutes later when she fired from the top left corner of the six-yard box. Missouri goalkeeper Mckenzie Sauerwein parried the ball over the end line for an A&M corner kick.
Monogue got a second chance and her 18th goal of the season in the 55th minute. Senior Rachel Balaguer led the forward with a pass from midfield as she charged ahead. Monongue stopped at the upper right corner of the 18-yard box and pounded a laser at the goal. Sauerwein leapt and gloved the ball but Monogue's shot was too hard and tumbled into the back of the net. The freshman has had at least one goal in seven of the Aggies' last eight games.
Balaguer similarly set Skelton up with a pass in the 63rd minute, sending a long ball in from the A&M defensive half. Skelton slipped past Tiger defenders and went one-on-one against Sauerwein, but the pair collided at the top of the six-yard box and the MU goalkeeper came up with the ball.
With just over seven minutes left in the match, Kunz added a security goal and gave the Aggies the biggest lead of any game in the Big 12 tournament this season.
Gnatzig chipped a ball from the left edge of the Aggie attacking third to Skelton, who was posed on the far side of the six-yard box. Skelton leaned to head the ball to Kunz at the left post as Sauerwein dove. The ball bounced twice as the freshman tangled with a defender, but the Kunz broke free and sunk the shot into the back of the net for the 3-0 advantage.
The Tigers couldn't respond, taking only four shots and never placing one on goal in the second half. The Aggies ended the match with 22 shots, including eight on goal, and allowed Missouri to take just nine shots and place two on frame. Freshman goalkeeper Jordan Day grabbed two saves in the shutout, while Sauerwein was forced to make five and give up three goals.
The Aggies chased Sauerwein, who earned a shutout against A&M during the regular season, from the goal with 2:09 left in regulation. She was replaced by Chelsea Smith in goal.
"It's a good result, especially knowing that this is a team that we lost to just a month ago," Guerrieri said. "We feel good about it. We've got a mighty task ahead of us to be able to go up against an undefeated team and try to win another title."
Up next, the Aggies will play No. 1 seed Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship final on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The match will be broadcast live on FSN, while a live audio broadcast will be featured on AggieAthletics.com and 95.1-3 The Zone HD. Visit RadioAggieland.com to download the smartphone app.
The Aggies and Cowgirls finished the season in College Station with a nationally-televised match that ended in a 0-0 draw. OSU never lost a match during Big 12 play and earned the regular-season conference championship while the Aggies, who fell only to Missouri, came in second in the league. OSU, the 2010 Big 12 Tournament Champion, defeated Texas tonight, 1-0 in double overtime, to advance to their third final in as many years.
A&M last reached the final round of the Big 12 Tournament in 2009 when the team fell to Oklahoma State, 0-1. The teams have met four times in the conference tournament, with A&M holding a 3-1 advantage over the Cowgirls. The Aggies' last tournament championship was in 2005 when they defeated No. 23 Colorado, 2-1 in double overtime. To learn more about Texas A&M soccer, log on to AggieAthletics.com.