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Soccer Wins SEC Championship

October 31, 2013
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
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(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Needing a win to secure a share of their first-ever SEC regular-season crown, the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies delivered with a 3-2 victory over the LSU Tigers at Ellis Field on Thursday night.

The triumph gave the Maroon and White a 9-2-0 ledger in league play and the Aggies’ share the SEC title with the Florida Gators who also finished with 27 points.

Texas A&M (14-4-1) broke the scoring seal in the 14th minute of action. Kelley Monogue sent a corner kick in from the left arc and found the head of Shea Groom in the six-yard box. Groom put the offering into the back of the net for her 12th goal of the season.

The Aggies dominated the flow of play in the first half, but were only able to take a 1-0 lead into the intermission. A&M owned decisive advantages in shots (14-0) and shots-on-goal (9-0) in the opening stanza.

Texas A&M scored an insurance goal in the 56th minute. Groom stole the ball from a Tigers’ defender on the right side of the penalty box arc and dumped a pass off to Allie Bailey who was charging into the box from the left side. Bailey threaded the needle to beat keeper Megan Kinneman, who came off her line to the top of the six-yard box, to the left side but also keep the ball inside the left post for the 2-0 lead.

LSU would answer Bailey’s goal 16 seconds later. Emma Fletcher slotted a pass into the left side of the penalty box to Summer Clarke. Clarke found herself in an enviable position 12 yards out and beat A&M keeper Jordan Day low and to the left to cut the A&M lead to 2-1 with 34:11 remaining in the second half.

The Aggies would take advantage of an LSU defensive lapse to reclaim a two-goal lead in the 65th minute. When a Tigers’ defender misplayed a pass from the keeper, Liz Keester stripped her clean just inside the penalty box. Keester found Annie Kunz unmarked a yard left of the penalty spot and Kunz beat a charging keeper to the right for the 3-1 edge.

The Tigers would keep things interesting in the 74th minute. Nina Anderson launched a missile from 12 yards out. Day was able to make the save, but Clarke corralled the carom and drove it home from eight yards out to trim the lead to 3-2 with her second goal of the match.

A&M was able to milk the clock by going on the offensive, taking the last five shots and last two corner kicks of the match.

For the game, the Aggies owned wide margins in shots (31-4), shots-on-goal (16-3) and corner kicks (7-1).

Day earned her 46th career win in net, making one save. Bailey, Groom and Bianca Brinson both rifled off shots as A&M had nine different players take two or more shots in the game.

Kinneman put in a heroic effort for LSU with 13 saves. Clarke took two of the Tigers’ four shots, scoring on both chances.

It marks the eighth regular-season league title for A&M, which captured seven as a member of the Big 12. Last season, in their first year in the SEC, the Aggies won the SEC Western Division title, but finished second to Florida in overall standings.

The Aggies will be the No. 2 seed at the 2013 SEC Women’s Soccer Tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama. Texas A&M returns to action on Wednesday when they will face either LSU or Auburn in the Second Round at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in Alabama. Match time is slated for Noon Central.

Texas A&M Quotes

Head Coach G Guerrieri
Overall thoughts:
“It’s a special feeling to be a champion in this conference. It doesn’t matter what the sport or gender is, the SEC is filled with great teams and great coaches and are well supported by their fans. I told the players, this is very special and they should enjoy it for the next couple of days. We are going to give them a couple of days to recover and then we will start to look at who we are going to play in Orange Beach for the SEC tournament. To come out and get three goals and outshoot them 17-0 at halftime was pretty dominant, but unfortunately we didn’t get enough of them on frame and I thought their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves. [Megan] Kinneman had a great night.  For us to get the goals, have another one called back, a couple penalties that weren’t called, and then to give up two counter attacks which we knew LSU was very good at- they had some clinical finishes. They were both great goals by LSU.”

On losing first SEC game and winning nine of the next 10: “It shows the character of the kids on this team. This is a group of players that come from great families and great soccer backgrounds but I think it’s also a good indicator of the environment that they are in here at Texas A&M. I’m proud of my staff. I think Phil Stephenson, our associate head coach, does a fantastic job, not just with the nuts and bolts and x’s and o’s of it, but helping to develop leaders and players who grow up and lead this program. When we have doubts and players have doubts we just need to remind them who they really are, and now we can hold up an SEC trophy and show them who they are.”

On the first goal: “Obviously it was a huge confidence boost and when the second one. But then to give up a goal in the next minute was a bit of a shock to them and a bit of a slap in the face. But again, you talk about the character of these players and the confidence that they have in each other to not be shaken by it and come back and score again. The ball was in the LSU half of the field almost the entire game. Hats off to LSU, because they finished their two chances and their goalkeeper played great to keep it close”

On celebrating the championship: “I think sometimes in sports people don’t really celebrate the things that are real accomplishments and this is a real accomplishment. To win the SEC is something that these players should be proud of. I told them that the most important thing now for us is to have their bodies ready for going to Orange Beach. We are going to practice on Sunday night and again on Monday before we leave town on Tuesday for Orange Beach Alabama.  We want them to enjoy tonight, its Halloween night, so they can go and enjoy a little extra candy.”

Junior midfielder Shea Groom
On losing first SEC game and winning nine of the next 10: “It’s just something that we’ve been through and coming from the bottom and finishing out the season this strong says a lot about our team. Heart is going to go a long way at this level of play. We are just excited, we formed a new motivation and decided that we weren’t going to be beat and that has really worked for us the last few games.”

On winning the title in the seniors’ last regular-season game at Ellis Field: “It’s an awesome feeling, the seniors have worked so hard and led the team. Rachel Lenz has been here for four years as a strong captain from the start, and Cristina (Sanchez-Quintanar) came in this year and fit right in with our team and she is a great athlete in all aspects. We are excited that we could send them off with a big win.”

On celebrating the championship: “We are going to enjoy it for the rest of the night, but tomorrow we wake up and we go to work and think about what is ahead. The SEC tournament is going to be just as hard as the conference this year.  We really need to take care of our bodies and be ready for the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament.”

On the close margin: “I think we got a little too comfortable halfway through the half. I don’t think they even had a shot until about 20 minutes in. I think it says a lot about our team that we can bounce back and get that win because we had no other option but to win.

On home-field advantage and energy: “Always playing at Ellis Field in front of the 12th Man is such an advantage over anywhere else in the country. We are just excited that we could be in front of our home fans and win it on this field. It would have been special to win the SEC outright in Florida but we love to win it here in front of our fans that come out every week and support us.”

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