IRVINE, Calif. - Sophomore Shea Groom contributed two assists as the No. 14 Texas A&M soccer team (1-0) opened the 2012 season with 2-1 victory over UC Irvine (0-2) Monday at Anteater Stadium.
The Aggies are now 17-3 all-time in home openers and avenged a 2011 loss to the Anteaters with the win.
"This wasn't our best performance, but it was nice to beat a team who beat us last year," head coach G Guerrieri said. "I thought Shea Groom had a super performance, being able to both stretch people and put some pressure on their back line. Jordan Day had a good performance, I thought Meghan Streight did a real good job in the back for us.
"There were some other performances that our players wouldn't be that proud of, but again, it's the first game, it's a win, and now we can prepare ourselves for another game against a conference champion when we play San Diego on Wednesday."
A&M scored one goal in each half, with the first answered by a UCI goal five minutes later. The game winner came with less than eight minutes left in regulation.
The match was a physical battle between the teams and after more-than 17 minutes of aggressive defensive play, a Jayne Eadie free kick at 25 yards from goal along the left flank in the 18th minute bent toward the right post and was grabbed in the air by the UCI goalkeeper. The redshirt junior's shot on frame was the first of the match.
Free kicks continued to give the Aggies scoring chances. In the 25th minute Eadie took a free kick at 30 yards from goal and forced a second save on the night to ignite the A&M offense.
"Jayne Eadie is a footballer in every sense of the word," Guerrieri said. "She is a great, great inspirational player for her teammates. Having her right at the heart of our lineup is great. She did a really good job of not only being able to keep us with possession of the ball, but she also created some great free kick situations and also a couple of really nice shots."
Less than two minutes later sophomore Bianca Brinson powered a shot in the 18 yard box that was blocked by a defender and ricocheted back to the feet of sophomore Katie Perry. Perry's shot was also blocked by Anteater defenders and was sent back toward goal by Eadie. Eadie's shot was also blocked.
The Aggies' work at UCI's goal paid off in the 40th minute. Senior Chelsea Jones took the ball to the end line at the left of the goalmouth and sent the ball back out to Groom at the top of the 18 yard box. Groom slotted a pass to Eadie near the middle of the attacking third, who then found Brinson along the right flank. Brinson juggled the ball twice before striking a laser that seared into the back post for the 1-0 lead.
UCI netted the equalizer in the 45th minute when Anteater midfielder Zuri Walker fired at 30 yards from goal near the center of the pitch. The teams entered the half locked in a 1-1 draw.
The teams continued to battle around both goals in the second half, but the Aggie defense was strong and maintained control.
Aggie goalkeeper Jordan Day was forced to make just two saves behind an efficient A&M back line, but was key in the win. The sophomore intercepted a dangerous UCI corner kick in the 62nd minute, jumping above a sea of players to grab the cross in midair.
The Aggies pulled ahead to a 2-1 lead in the 83rd minute when Groom deflected a pass from a UCI defender and moved the ball around the Anteater backline and into the six-yard box, pulling the keeper out of goal. Sophomore Kelley Monogue met Groom in the box and sent the ball into the back of the net to take the lead.
A&M outmatched the Anteaters with seven shots on frame to three, and forced five saves, while each team took 11 shots.
The Aggies will end their California road trip at San Diego on Wednesday. First kick is set for 9 p.m. CST. The team will then return to Aggieland for its home opener - the annual Fish Camp Game - which will be against UTSA at 7 p.m. CST. To learn more about Texas A&M soccer, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoccer on Twitter.