COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Annie Kunz scored the game's lone goal and the Texas A&M defense logged its 14th shutout of the season as the No. 15 Aggies defeated Stephen F. Austin, 1-0, in NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship first round action at Ellis Field on Friday evening.
With the win, Texas A&M improved to 18-4-1 overall and the Aggies will advance to the second round to play the winner of Saturday's match between Oakland and Ohio State. The second round game will be played next Friday in Tallahassee, Fla.
SFA's best season in program history came to a close with a 17-4-0 mark. The 17 wins are a program best.
The Ladyjacks, playing in their third NCAA Championship, dictated the terms of play early in the contest, outshooting the Aggies 7-1 in the first 25 minutes of action. There were tense moments for Texas A&M early in the match when Zuri Prince slipped past the defense for a clear shot in the seventh minute of action but missed wide right. Laura Sadler missed a scoring opportunity in the fifth minute, with her shot also going just a few feet wide.
Texas A&M made its second shot of the game count as Bianca Brinson was able to slip a pass through the SFA defense from the top of the penalty box finding Kunz in front of goal at the top of the six-yard box. Kunz knocked the ball to the left of the Ladyjacks' netminder Lacey Lee for her 12th goal of the season. It was just the seventh goal allowed by Lee the entire season.
The Aggies' Leigh Edwards hit the crossbar on a shot with 15 minutes remaining in the first half, but that was the last threat of the half and the A&M went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
Both teams threatened the scoreboard in the second half. Annie Kunz had a pair of shots that nearly added to the score as her shot from 15 yards out in the 59th minute hit the right post and her shot in the 88th minute went a foot wide. SFA's Melissa Gaudet sent a ball with pace through traffic, but Aggies' goalkeeper Jordan Day was able to get a mitt on the ball to hold the Ladyjacks at bay.
After being outshot by the 7-1 margin early on, Texas A&M was able to hold the final shot margin, 18-13, including 12-5 in the second half. The Aggies held a slim margin in shots-on-goal (6-4) while Stephen F. Austin owned a large lead in corner kicks (8-1) which it was unable to capitalize on.
Day made four saves in goal to push her school-record mark to 13, two shy of the SEC record of 15 set by South Carolina's Mollie Patton in 2009.
Lee made five saves for Stephen F. Austin.
The Aggies are now 14-2-2 all-time in NCAA First Round action and have advanced to the second round on 16 occasions. Texas A&M's 18 wins this season are tied for third-most in school history, trailing just the 2002 (20-5-1) and 1996 (19-4) campaigns.
The Aggies improved to 14-0 all-time against teams from the Southland Conference and have yielded just one goal against the league, which came in A&M's 2007 NCAA Championship first round game against SFA, a 4-1 win.
Texas A&M Quotes
Head Coach G Guerrieri
Opening Statement: We are excited to be on the winning side. I thought that Stephen F. Austin played a fantastic game, they really came out and the first seven or eight minutes they were the dominant team out there. At one point we had been outshot five to nothing, but once we started to put some stuff together and connect on a few passes, especially with the goal. Then in the second half, I thought it was some good battling by our team. We almost scored a second and a third goal, it would have been nice to have that insurance, but nonetheless it was a big win and all the credit in the world to Tony and his crew; I thought they had a good game plan and played really well
On foul by Zuri Prince on Jayne Eadie: I thought the ref did a good job across the board on the game. It's hard because everyone who plays in this tournament has their season on the line. You are accustomed to winning and people are going to play on edge. That was a tough foul and it took out one of our key players with Jackie Tondl. We had to bring in another freshman who had been in the game a little bit as a midfielder. (Janae) Cousineu came in a did a good job of just keeping us solid in the back.
On Stephen F. Austin: The thing that is interesting is that SFA is quality side. I've been saying it all week long. They are well coached. They are senior-dominated. Kylie Louw is as good of a player as you are going to see across the United States. The fact that she plays in the Southland Conference just shows the parity across the board in women's college soccer. That was Meghan Streight's assignment: to be able to stick with her and keep her from penetrating. I thought Louw got one good penetrating pass in 90 minutes. That is a testament to how well Meghan did in that part of the field. We are a sophomore-dominated team. This is a team of teenagers. They've been in so many big games this year and in past years that they are accustomed to tight, competitive games against teams with special players and I'm proud of the way our girls came through it. It was not a thing of beauty tonight, except that winning is beautiful and we will always take that. Thirty-two teams will be eliminated this weekend and it's not us. We march on. We will now play the winner of Ohio State/Oakland in Tallahassee, Fla. and we'll start to prepare for that as soon as possible.
On preparing for next game: We're not a seeded team. If we end up playing against Ohio State, it is kind of a situation where we are playing with the house's money, to an extent. We will be an underdog and we haven't been an underdog all season long. We will go into it with a little bit of that mentality that a higher seeded team is probably the team that is expected to win and we'll try to prove that wrong. We've got to continue to play more like we played in the middle portion of this game: to be able to keep possession of the ball, to be able to move the ball around and to be able to find our greatest players. Shea Groom worked her way into the game and did some good things. I thought Allie Bailey was very good all night. Katie Perry came in off of the bench and did an outstanding job in the second half. I thought she was a key cog in our success. We're excited that we will have probably at least Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to train before we fly out to Tallahassee. We'll get a few more of those days in here and then get ready for what we know is going to be a tough road but a road that we are excited about.
Sophomore forward Annie Kunz
On the goal after being out shot: They definitely came out with some fight, and we knew that it was going to be a fight the whole game. We were able to connect a few passes and Lindsay put a great ball in, kind of messy in there and I was able to get a touch on it and go far post and I think that definitely calmed things down and allowed us to play a little bit more through the half. "
On the low scoring game: We always want that insurance goal, a 1-0 lead is definitely a dangerous lead. I think if we could have gotten an insurance goal it would have calmed things down we would have had a little less pressure our the defense but a win is a win and 1-0 worked for us tonight. "
Sophomore midfielder/defender Meghan Streight
On Prince's missed shot in the seventh minute: That was definitely a scary moment for us, I think we all held our breath for a few seconds. They came out very hard and we knew they were going to. They just had a huge fight, but once Annie scored her goal it seemed to settle things and we were able to connect more and settle it down more in the back and relax and just play our game which is what we're so good at doing.
Stephen F. Austin Quotes
Head Coach Tony Amato
Opening Statement: Congratulations to Texas A&M for moving on. They are a good team and can definitely make some noise in the tournament. I thought our team was outstanding. They came out and played very well in the first half. They could have gotten a goal or two. It is unfortunate that they buried the chance they got but I'm proud of my team and thought we fought all the way until the end and could have won the game.
On first attempts at a goal by Zuri Prince: I think it would have made a clear statement that we were here to play. Sometimes teams take 15-20 minutes to settle into this environment in an NCAA game. Our group showed the quality that they have and they have the ability to start of the match in that sort of intensity in creating chances. It would have been a different game if we had finished the one or two chances early.
On physicality of team: We play hard. Coming from a smaller conference, a lot of times teams don't respect our ability and we thought, "We have to come out with a point to prove and play hard. Not anything dirty or stupid, but just play hard and know we are here today." I thought we did an excellent job of that.
On goal by Annie Kunz: We wish it would have fallen to someone else because we know that she takes chances and can score on them. The ball got delivered into the box, it got knocked down and fell to her. She's a good player and she stuck it in the corner. It was just one of those things that we knew we had to limit her chances. She got that chance and was able to put it home and got them the win.
On save by Jordan Day in second half that prevented a goal: I thought it got through the crowd and she had a good save to her right. We got to the rebound and we able to deliver a ball in but they were able to deal with it. That was definitely our best chance of the second half but credit to their goalkeeper. The balls we delivered into the box and the shots we did have she dealt with very well.