COLLEGE STATION, Texas - With over 50 former players, who helped build Texas A&M into the premier soccer program in the Big 12, in attendance, the No. 5 Aggies continued their trek to establish themselves as one of the premier teams in the SEC with a 5-0 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide at Ellis Field on Friday evening.
With the victory, the Aggies remained the only unbeaten SEC team in league play with a 6-0-1 mark. Texas A&M remained atop the SEC overall standings with 19 points, one point ahead of the No. 16 Missouri Tigers and No. 18 Florida Gators. The Aggies kept their SEC Western Division lead at seven points ahead of the Auburn Tigers.
The Aggies improved to 12-1-1 and extended their unbeaten string to 12 matches, the longest since the 2007 season when A&M also had an 11-0-1 stretch. The only longer unbeaten streak in school history came in 2002 when Texas A&M went 15-0-1 over a 16-match span.
Shea Groom lit the fuse on the Texas A&M offense in the ninth minute of play. As she dribbled down the right side of the pitch, she lulled the Alabama defense to sleep before booming a shot in from 30 yards out. With no chance of a save by Crimson Tide netminder Shelby Church, the shot ruffled the netting on the left upper 90 to give the Aggies a 1-0 lead.
The Aggies took advantage of the Crimson Tide's inability to clear a free kick for their second goal of the half. In the 30th minute Jackie Tondl launched a free kick from midfield. An Alabama defender headed the ball at the top of the penalty box, but the clearing attempt went to the foot of Allie Bailey who sent a shot in from 25 yards out. Church, who was already a couple steps off her line, took another step up before retreating. The retreat was too late and Bailey's shot sailed over her head into the back netting for the 2-0 lead.
Texas A&M scored its next goal on a penalty kick. The scoring opportunity was set up off a short corner kick play. Beth West scooted the corner kick offering out to Leigh Edwards. Edwards entered the box down the right flank and was taken down two steps inside the penalty box to draw the foul. Annie Kunz was called on to take the penalty kick and she stymied Church and before the Aggie soccer legends in attendance could be announced at halftime, Texas A&M staked claim to a 3-0 lead.
The Aggies' brilliance on set pieces continued early in the second half. Katie Perry was called on to take a free kick two yards off the end line and two yards to the right of the penalty box. She sent a perfect pass into the foot of Kelley Monogue who was two steps inside the penalty spot. Monogue sent the ball past a bewildered Alabama goalie to give A&M a 4-0 advantage.
The final goal came on yet another set piece, for Texas A&M, who has scored on set pieces in each of the last seven games. From 45 yards out, Jayne Eadie launched a free kick into the penalty box. Groom got her head on the ball from eight yards out and knocked it past the keeper to cap off the cavalcade of goals.
Jordan Day and Renee McDermott combined on Texas A&M's 10th shutout of the season. Day made four saves in 73:35 of action. McDermott closed out the game with two saves in 16:25
Texas A&M returns to action on Sunday when the Aggies host Florida in a 12:30 p.m. contest at Ellis Field. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Coach G Guerrieri
On the efficiency of the offense: It was important. We've got a big game on Sunday in the middle of the day which is going to be taxing physically. The players that got in at the end of the game have been working hard, training hard and deserve to be out there. I know the other girls were excited to see those girls on the field. I think Alabama is a heck of a good team. They just didn't have that last pass or the strike force that we had to finish some chances. They were absolutely in the game from the start. If it wasn't for some golazos by us it was going to be a major dogfight. Not a dogfight in that it was a physical game, just the ability for both teams to attack freely and maintain possession of the ball and put the other team in danger.
On how close the game was despite the score: The first goal, they don't step up on somebody who's 35 yards out from goal and think she's going to carom off the back-corner post. The second goal was the idea of "if you don't buy a ticket, you can't win the lottery." Then the penalty kick, which was justified. Then the one at the start of the second half which had a great serve by Katie Perry and a great finish by Kelley Monogue. The keeper had no chance at that one. It was just a bang-bang play. That would probably be the only one that they weren't that tight on us, and she was three yards away. The fifth one was very well served, and a great header by Shea at the end.
On the shot selection: I don't think many people would expect those shots again. The bottom line is the team that wins is the team that takes and finishes their chances. Alabama is a good team. They're going to be successful in their remaining SEC matches.
On the Florida matchup on Sunday: Florida is much like Alabama and maybe to the next degree. They do a very good job in possession.They're very lethal in their ability to score from a lot of different places, even out of the midfield. We'll have to use the things we got tonight to build our confidence and hopefully beat the Gators.
Sophomore forward Shea Groom
On her first goal: I was probably about 23 yards out. I was looking up and trying to find some kind of option and I remember Wally (Crittenden) telling us that their keeper plays really near the post. I took my chance and beat her to the back post.
On her second goal: Jayne plays great off free kicks. She puts us in a great position to get it in the goal. We've talked a lot about going near-post and trying to get something on it.
On the team scoring five goals: I think it's a great confidence builder. It takes us back to last year when we were an offensive powerhouse. It's a good time to peak for us right now.