COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies got two goals midway through the second half to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores, 2-1, for their ninth consecutive win.
With the victory, the Aggies locked themselves into one of the top two spots at the SEC Soccer Tournament which starts next Sunday in Orange Beach, Alabama. Texas A&M improved to 13-2-1 overall and 8-1-0 in the SEC. With 24 points, the Aggies moved within one point of first-place South Carolina atop the league standings. The Gamecocks played Georgia to a 1-1 draw Sunday evening and they now own 25 points with an 8-0-1 SEC mark.
Texas A&M can win an outright SEC regular-season title with a win at Mississippi State Thursday night coupled with either a Florida win or draw against South Carolina the same evening in Gainesville. The Aggies can also win a share of the crown with a tie against Mississippi State and a Florida win versus South Carolina on Thursday.
The nine-game win streak is the Aggies’ longest since string together nine in a row in August and September 2012. The Maroon & White will be looking for their first double-digit win streak since 2007 on Thursday when they travel to Starkville for a 7:05 p.m. contest against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
After being held without a shot for the entire first half, Vanderbilt (10-6-1, 5-3-1 SEC) drew first blood on a set piece in the 47th minute. Lydia Simmons sent a corner kick in from the left side. The initial carom found the Simone Charley on the left side of the six-yard box. Charley sent a shot in with Cosette Morché making a diving save. The ball trickled back out to Charley and she threaded a shot between Morché, who was still on the ground and Callyn Walton who was manning the left post, for her fourth goal of the season.
Suddenly down a goal, the Aggies showed no panic as the second half unfolded. The result was a pair of goals, both set up by Emily Bates, who returned to the pitch after missing the last four games due to injury, and Mikaela Harvey.
In the 55th minute, Harvey battled through three players in middle channel 30 yards out to send a through ball to Bates settled in the penalty arc. With her back to goal, Bates sent a one-touch with her right foot to Grace Piper approaching the penalty box left of the arc. Piper ripped a left-footed shot from 20 yards out, sending her missile into the left upper 90 for the equalizer.
Four minutes later Texas A&M claimed the lead. Harvey gathered a clearance attempt at the top of the penalty arc and sent a pass to Bates in the right corner of the penalty box. Bates played a cross to the penalty spot where a charging Addie McCain used her first touch to send a low-driven right-footer inside the left post for her first career goal.
The Cardiac Kids pulled out their seventh one-goal victory during the nine-match win streak. The team improved to 8-1-1 in matches decided by one goal or less in 2017.
The Aggies stymied Vanderbilt in the first half, outshooting the Commodores 10-0. Texas A&M was unlucky on a couple occasions in the opening stanza. In the 19th minute, Vandy keeper Kaitlyn Fahrner needed a leaping punch to make a save on a shot from Bates from 20 yards out. In the 26th minute, McCain had a nice flick off a Kendall Ritchie free kick to put the ball in goal, but Piper was deemed to be offside on the play. In the 29th minute, McCain sent in a howitzer from 25 yards, eluding a jumping Fahrner, but hitting the crossbar.
Texas A&M owned wide advantages in shots (19-7), shots-on-goal (7-4) and corner kicks (8-1).
The triumph also marked the eighth straight SEC win for the Aggies, equaling the school mark set in 2013. The Maroon & White’s best conference win streak is 14, which they set in the Big 12 between Oct. 4, 1996 and Oct. 10, 1997.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach G Guerrieri
On the win...
“The Commodores are having a great season. So when we went behind, we knew we’d have to really turn it on. I’m proud of our team coming from behind with two goals of the highest quality to earn the win.”
On Senior Day...
“The team is committed to each other. This is not a group of individuals. This is a talented team made up of individual great players, but they play for each other. I think being Senior Day was that much more special and they were going to go out and do it for Miki (Mikaela Harvey) and Mac (Paulson) and Steph (Stephanie Malherbe) and Haley (Pounds). The team was going to do whatever it took to get them the win today on their Senior Day.”
Senior midfielder Stephanie Malherbe
On responding to Vanderbilt’s goal…
“To get that goal right away and then to get that second goal pretty quickly after I think sealed the deal. I think all of us were pretty confident, none of us really got our heads down because we knew that we deserved to win this game.”
Senior midfielder Mikaela Harvey
On Grace Piper's goal...
“Piper has a rocket of a shot. She hit it perfectly into the upper 90 and I was just happy for her to get another one. A lot of time I just have to shield the player with the ball one way and a player on our team can swipe it. Piper and Addie played amazing today and they really helped me out in the midfield. With them, there isn't that much running. They are able to keep that to a minimum.”
On the answering the Vanderbilt goal...
“I think we knew we were playing really well and had the momentum in the first half. It was really frustrating that they got a goal but I think we were confident that we would be able to get one back. Then, getting one so quickly gave us the confidence we needed to finish out the win.”