March 31, 2011

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - To see Alyssa Mautz dancing with the rest of the Texas A&M soccer players in the team's clubhouse, you would never guess she had once felt like the odd one out. When she joined the group for the 2008 season as a transfer from Saint Louis University, that's exactly how she felt.

"It's very different than joining a team as a freshman," Mautz said. "When you transfer onto a team that has already been together for an entire season, they already have so many experiences together that you've missed out on. But everyone was so welcoming to me and wanted to know who I was.

"When I first walked into the clubhouse I was full of excitement but also was nervous. I was more excited than anything."

Junior Merritt Mathias also joined the Aggies as a transfer at the beginning of the 2010 season, transferring from North Carolina, the 2009 national champions. Moving to A&M meant an opportunity for more playing time and a new team dynamic for the Birmingham, Ala., native.

"Sometimes great players just need new challenges or a different environment to better-achieve their goals in college," said head coach G Guerrieri. "Alyssa and Merritt are two examples of players that stepped in and immediately earned playing time and made positive impacts on our team's success on the field."

Mautz made her transition into the Aggie soccer program as a sophomore, moving to A&M from her hometown school, St. Louis University (SLU). At SLU she played in all 18 games, starting in 17 in 2007. She netted a team second-best five goals, four of them game winners, and was recognized on the Atlantic 10 All-Freshman Team.

In her first season with the Aggies, Mautz lost no time making her name known among a new home crowd, scoring in her debut, the season opener vs. Rhode Island. She ended the season with 13 points on five goals and three assists, and earned a spot on the USA U20 National team which won a gold medal at the U20 Women's World Cup in Chile.

"Stepping onto the field at A&M, I felt like a professional athlete with all of the fans we had there," Mautz said. "There is just so much more energy in the atmosphere at the Aggie Soccer Stadium than at other places."

The Aggies finished 2008 with a 1-2 double-overtime loss to North Carolina at the NCAA Quarterfinal, repeating the program's best postseason finish. The Tar Heels (and then freshman Mathias) went on to win the NCAA Championship.

In 2009 Mautz saw action in all 25 games, starting in 20. She scored the game winners in conference matches vs. Kansas (Oct. 2) and Colorado (Oct. 23) and scored against Memphis in the NCAA Tournament to help the Aggies advance to their 10th NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.

Last season the senior was one of only two Aggies to start in all 23 matches, leading the offense with 29 points on 12 goals and five assists. She recorded five game winners, ranking second in the Big 12. Mautz was named to the 2010 All-Big 12 first team and the Big 12 All-Tournament team. She was honored as the NSCAA National Player of the Week and the Big 12 Player of the Week after recording her second career hat trick vs. Virginia Tech (Aug. 27). This past January she was selected as the 16th-overall pick in the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) draft and has signed with Sky Blue FC, where she will open her pro career later this month.

"My favorite thing about the university is how everyone is involved in the sports," Mautz said. "You can go to any Aggie sporting event and there will always be a crowd. Also, I love sawing Varsity's horns off with the War Hymn after wins. It's an awesome tradition!"

Mathias transferred to A&M this past August (2010). At UNC, she saw action in two national championship seasons, logging playing time as a freshman in the NCAA College Cup of 2008.

"I was excited to get started at A&M," Mathias said. "It was a little overwhelming because Aggie soccer was a completely new system. I was mostly excited, though, because it was a new opportunity to come and play for a great team and do what I love."

This past season, as a junior at A&M, Mathias ranked third in the team's offensive stats with nine goals, four of them game winners. She recorded her first career hat trick vs. Davidson (Sept. 3) and scored the lone goal in the 1-0 shutout of Iowa State. Mathias netted the game-winning penalty kicks in the Big 12 Tournament shootout vs. Colorado (Nov. 3) and the NCAA Tournament shootout vs. North Dakota State (Nov. 12). The forward was named Big 12 Player of the Week twice and was named to the All-Big 12 first team and the Big 12 All-Newcomer team.

"I have absolutely loved my experience at A&M," Mathias said. "I think I made the best decision possible coming here. The team and coaches have been everything I could have wanted and I wish I would have signed here my freshman year. I'm looking forward to my senior season at Texas A&M."

Mautz and Mathias are just two in a long line of transfers that have contributed to the success of the Aggie soccer program. Others have moved from other college programs to Texas A&M thoughout the years and experienced huge success in Aggieland.

In 1996, Sharon Pickering paved the way for future A&M transfers in her three years with the Aggies, making the move from Clemson to College Station for her sophomore year. That season she played in each of the Aggies' 23 matches. She was an immediate presence on the offense, contributing five shots, one goal and three assists as a newcomer. In 1997 Pickering ranked third among her teammates in points with 22, netting four game winners, including the goal that clinched Texas A&M's first-ever Big 12 Championship (of any sport), when A&M defeated Nebraska to win the 1997 Big 12 regular-season title.. She garnered the Big 12 Tournament MVP title after pushing the Aggies' first-ever Big 12 Tournament championship. In her senior season, Pickering earned 21 points on five assists and eight goals, two of them game winners, to finish out a strong career.

In 2000, Juli Goin made the 90 mile move from Baylor to Aggieland as a junior. As a Lady Bear, the midfielder was named to the 1999 All-Big 12 second team. With A&M, her career really took off. Goin was a fixture in the Texas A&M midfield and helped the Aggies to two NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen appearances. As a senior, Goin netted a brilliant 30-yard goal against Texas that clenched another Big 12 regular-season championship for the Aggies.

In 2002, Christina Echavarry transferred to A&M from Furman as a sophomore, and was an immediate scoring weapon in the Aggies' midfield. Texas A&M won its fourth Big 12 Championship that season before making a second-ever Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In 2004 she ranked second on the team offensively, netting eight goals and assisting three for 19 points to help lead the team to both the 2004 Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships.

In August of 2005, Elisabeth Jones transferred from the University of Kentucky. She redshirted that first year in Aggieland and then was a starter on A&M's conference championship teams of 2006 and 2007. Jones was a menace to opponents as she logged numerous goals, including the game winner against Virginia that sent the Aggies to their third NCAA Elite Eight against North Carolina. As a senior, the forward put 21 shots on goal, netting six of them and assisting three more for 15 points as A&M claimed its fourth-consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship and advanced to another NCAA Tournament.

"We have been fortunate to have had some great players transfer into our Aggie program after starting their careers someplace else," Guerrieri said. "And those players have all had great Aggie careers and experiences."