COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies extended their win streak to eight matches with a 2-1 comeback win over the No. 23 Ole Miss Rebels on Senior Night at Ellis Field on Friday.
The match kept Texas A&M three points ahead of second-place Florida heading into their match in Gainesville on Sunday. The contest, slated to start at 2 pm Central, will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
The herd of teams still in the hunt for the SEC regular-season title was culled down to four teams on Friday night. The Aggies sit atop of the standings with 24 points with an 8-1-0 league ledger. The Gators have 21 points with a 7-2-0 SEC record. South Carolina is in third place with 19 points and Kentucky stands in fourth place with 18 points.
With two matches remaining in the regular-season, the Aggies can secure an outright title with a win on Sunday and a tie would earn the Aggies at least a share of the league crown.
Ole Miss (12-4-2, 5-3-1 SEC) drew first blood in the 31st minute. Mandy McCalla controlled the ball on the right flank and sent a cross into the six-yard box. Olivia Harrison gathered the ball in the left corner of the goal area and sent a shot to the back of the net for her 12th tally of the season.
The Rebels took a 1-0 lead into the intermission, despite the Aggies owning an 8-6 advantage in shots and a 6-3 edge in shots-on-goal. Ole Miss took the first four corner kicks of the half, but Texas A&M controlled the flow of play in the final in the final 10 minutes and evened the opportunities at 4-4 at the break.
The Aggies turned up the offensive aggression in the second half. The peppering of shots began early as Annie Kunz launched a shot in the first 20 seconds that found Kelly McCormick making a heroic save to keep A&M off the scoreboard.
Texas A&M (13-3-1) finally notched the equalizer in the 67th minute as Bianca Brinson went on a one-player counterattack. Brinson took a clearance from an Aggie defender just outside the penalty box, alluded two Rebel forces early and then raced 70 yards down the right side of the pitch before slotting a shot to the left of McCormick from eight yards out to tie the game at 1-1 with her third goal of the season.
The Aggies’ continued pressure paid off with a penalty kick opportunity with 4:57 remaining in the second half. After Kelley Monogue had a shot blocked from 20 yards out, the ball ping-ponged around the Rebels’ defense in the penalty box where the referee whistled Ole Miss for a hand-ball.
Shea Groom stepped up to take the penalty kick. Despite guessing the correct direction, McCormick was unable to make the save on Groom’s perfectly placed offering and the Aggies took the 2-1 lead.
For the match, Texas A&M owned advantages in shots (20-9), shots-on-goal (11-4) and corner kicks (6-4).
Jordan Day picked up her 45th career win in goal for the Aggies, making three saves in the winning effort, including a punch save in the 79th minute on a shot from Harrison to keep Ole Miss from taking a 2-1 lead down the stretch.
McCormick made eight saves, including six in an impressive first half. The Rebels’ backline also made a team save on a shot by Kunz in the 77th minute that would’ve given A&M the upper hand.
The Aggies’ eight-match conference win streak is the longest for the Aggies in league play since winning eight consecutive matches in Big 12 play between September 26 and October 24, 2010.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach G Guerrieri
Opening Statement: “I’m really proud of the players. That was a gutsy performance. Ole Miss is having one of the best season’s they have ever had. They have a lot of quality out there with a lot of really good players. It seemed to be physical out there. I was pleased that our girls held their composure. I was very pleased with their drive. You could see it in the second half. We outshot them 12-3 in the second half and that’s due to heart but also some really good execution. I thought the goal Bianca Brinson scored was one of the best goals we’ve scored all season.”
On Bianca Brinson: “The biggest improvement’s she’s made have been the decisions she’s making. She knows when to take people on and when not to do it. She understands that when the numbers and space isn’t right, she can still keep possession for us and not turn the ball over. She makes great decisions on the fly. It’s a good sign of her maturing as a player and it’s an indicator of a training environment these girls are in. I thought our midfield in general did a really great job tonight.”
On penalty shots: “Honestly, we have a great group of penalty-takers. I let the girls choose. Whoever knows they can step and score can take the shot. Penalty kicks are a lot like free-throws: if you have the technique, you know you can do it. We have a lot of players that have a lot of confidence.”
Junior forward Bianca Brinson
On her goal: “The space just opened up. I kept thinking ‘this is my chance.’ I had to take the shot.”
On Shea Groom taking the penalty kick: “Shea is someone that I’m extremely confident in. Anytime something happens like what happened today, I know, no matter what, she’s going to come through.”
On getting the win on Senior Night: “I love our seniors. We needed to win this game for them and for the team. We’ve been down before and we just kept fighting back. We had to show that we have faith in each other and we can do anything we set our minds to.”