STARKVILLE, Mississippi – The Texas A&M Aggies held off the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 2-1, Thursday evening at MSU Soccer Field to close out the regular-season on a three-match win streak.
With the victory, Texas A&M wrapped up the regular-season with a 10-7-1 overall mark and a 5-5-1 league ledger. The Aggies are tied with Tennessee and Vanderbilt for sixth place in the league standings, but the Maroon and White will be the No. 8 seed at next week’s SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Texas A&M drew first blood early in the contest. With just over 43 minutes showing on the first half clock, Ashlynn Harryman was taken down on the left side of the penalty box. Mississippi State’s goalkeeper Tanya de Souza stonewalled Haley Pounds on the penalty kick, but the rebound went right back to the feet of Pounds who sent the carom into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Mississippi State’s best chance to score in the opening half came on a three-shot flurry in the 24th minute by McKenna de Graaf. The first two shots were cleared off the goal line by Kendall Ritchie and Danielle Rice punched the final shot in sequence over the crossbar.
The Aggies went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead. Texas A&M owned an 8-6 edge in shots in the first half.
The Bulldogs put an equalizer on the scoreboard early in the second stanza. Taking a free kick at the center stripe, Ariana Holmes sent an offering into a meeting of the clans in the penalty box. After the ball ping-ponged near the penalty spot Mallory Eubanks used her right foot to thread a shot through four players, scoring inside the right post to tie the score at 1-1 in the 48th minute.
Texas A&M reclaimed the lead 74 seconds later. With the ball at the top of the penalty box, Stephanie Malherbe delivered a pass to Grace Wright near the right corner of the box. Wright found an open alley to shoot and ripped a shot from 25 yards into the left upper 90 for her first career goal.
The Aggies missed a chance to put an insurance goal in the books in the 61st minute when Grace Piper’s header on a free kick offering from Wright hit the right post. McKayla Paulson and Pounds both had late scoring chances turned away by solid Mississippi State defense.
Mississippi State owned the advantages in shots (19-12) and shots-on-goal (9-6), but Rice came up huge in goal with eight saves.
The Aggies return to action Monday at 6:00 p.m. Central as they play the Alabama Crimson Tide in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach G Guerrieri
On the match…
“That’s a gritty Mississippi State team who has really improved by leap and bounds in the last year, so it took 90 minutes of effort to win that match. It’s great to end the regular-season on a three-match win streak and take some momentum to Orange Beach.”
On heading to the SEC Tournament…
“We’re starting to get healthy and we’re putting some wins on the board, but Orange Beach is going to be a grind. If we want to win the tournament we’re going to have to play four tough games in a seven-day stretch. It’s a tall task, but I think if any team can do it we can.”
(© 2016 KAGS)