Photo by Tyler Zander, TexAgs
Texas A&M Soccer

No. 17 Aggies cap regular season with 2-1 Halloween win over Ole Miss

November 1, 2019
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No. 17 ranked Texas A&M soccer defeated the Ole Miss Rebels 2-1 in the regular season finale on Thursday night at Ellis Field. The hard-fought Halloween matchup featured a suspenseful showdown between the two talented teams and was a spectacular treat for soccer fans who braved the cold to attend the regular season wrap up. 

With SEC tournament selection looming, Thursday’s close to the regular season was a high stakes matchup for both teams. The Rebels, who are 9-6-3 on the year, desperately needed the win to secure a spot in the conference tournament. Tied for seventh in the SEC rankings, the Rebels were sitting just out of range for a guaranteed slot and were looking for the upset over the Aggies to punch their ticket to Orange Beach. 

While their berth in the SEC tournament was secure, the Aggies needed to subdue the Rebels in order to have a shot at the regular season conference crown. With Arkansas and South Carolina sitting ahead of them in the standings, A&M needed the win at home and get some help from Tennessee and Auburn to have a chance to claim part of the SEC regular season title. Coming off two high powered performances last week, the Aggies were hoping to extend their streak of offensive dominance in Thursday’s match.  

Despite the chilly temperatures and gusting winds, both teams got off to a hot start. In the opening minutes of the game, Ole Miss found themselves deep in Aggie territory. Efforts by Lonnie Mulligan and Haleigh Stackpole gave the Rebels a set piece opportunity. They sent an arching corner kick into the box, but Aggie keeper Kenna Caldwell was well-positioned and made the save in traffic.

Tyler Zander, TexAgs
Ally Watt leads the attack for the Aggies on Thursday night against Ole Miss.

The Aggies had several close opportunities early. Aggie forward Taylor Ziemer found the ball in space in the twenty-fifth minute, sending in an arching, high-powered shot towards the upper corner of the goal. The Rebels’ keeper managed to get a hand on it, deflecting it over the goal. In the thirty-fifth minute, the Aggies were in position again. Freshman defender Katie Smith found a lane, driving down the field into the Aggies’ attacking third. Under pressure from the dominant Ole Miss backline, Smith sent the ball to a waiting Ally Watt who was positioned just outside the box. Watt took the shot, sending a phenomenal breaking ball towards the upper left corner of the frame. The shot went just high, disrupted by the Rebels’ keeper who managed to get a finger on it. Despite several meaningful possessions, the Aggies’ offense was unable to convert on their drives during the first period and the two teams headed into halftime scoreless. 

The Aggies finally broke the ice after halftime in the fifty-ninth minute. Midfielder Taylor Ziemer managed to clear the ball following a persistent Ole Miss offensive press, sending a header up the field to a waiting Jimena Lopez. Lopez found the ball in space, moving it into the Aggie’s attacking third with A&M’s front three up in support. With the Ole Miss defenders retreating to the box, Lopez had plenty of time to take a deep shot from twenty-five yards out. The powerful shot was a beautiful bending ball that managed to squeeze in the top right corner of the frame, just out of reach of the Rebels’ goalkeeper. 

With the Aggies on the board, Ole Miss maintained their composure. Following the kickoff after the score, the Rebels grabbed possession and held it, pressuring A&M’s backline. With Ole Miss in a full offensive press, the Aggies’ defensive third rapidly became congested. The Rebels managed to use this to their advantage when star forward Channing Foster put the Ole Miss on the board in the sixty-first minute. 

To set up the score, Haleigh Stackpole, whose elusiveness and persistence had made her a headache for the Aggies, once again found herself with the ball in the box. The Aggie backline, who had already had several close calls with a speedy Stackpole, swarmed the forward. As Stackpole tangled with a defender in the crowded box, she managed to tap the ball to a waiting Channing Foster. Foster, who was positioned just inside the box, split two defenders and slotted one in the back of the net behind a diving Aggie keeper to tie up the game. 

With the Rebels breathing down their necks, the Aggies allowed themselves a moment to regroup and refocus following the score. With under thirty minutes to play, the already tight match seemed to increase in intensity following the score. Both sides played with urgency and sharpness, pressing deep into opposing territory and increasing the physicality and competitiveness on both sides of the ball. 

The Aggies played aggressively in an attempt to break the tie. In the sixty-fifth minute, Ally Watt was poised to put the Aggies back in the lead. The feisty forward sent in a perfectly framed bending ball from distance. A dramatic, diving save from the Rebels’ goalkeeper deflected the ball off the crossbar, causing it to miss the back of the net by inches.

In a matchup of two high octane offenses, it was the Rebels’ goalkeeper who had one of the most impressive showings on the night. Ashley Orkus, the sophomore keeper for Ole Miss, recorded an impressive ten saves on the night, fielding an onslaught of shots from a determined Aggie offense.  Orkus managed to get a hand on almost everything that came her way, seeming to anticipate the offense’s every move.

However, in the seventy-ninth minute, the Aggies were knocking on the door again. Jimena Lopez took the corner kick for the Aggies, sending a high bending ball into the box. Senior Jordan Hill took the header in the box, sending the ball towards the far post. Forward Abby Grace Cooper found the ball in traffic. Cooper took one touch with her left foot, pivoted, and punched the ball through to give the Aggies the 2-1 lead. 

With the Aggies in the lead, the Rebels continued to persevere, trying to get their offense in gear again. The Aggies maintained control of the match, staving off the Rebels’ late offensive attempts and holding possession as the clock wound down on the final minutes of the match. 

With the win, the Aggies conclude their regular season at 13-3-3. The game, which also gave the team the opportunity to honor a spectacular senior class, was a hard-fought win that reflected the perseverance and discipline exhibited by the team throughout the season.

Senior defender Callyn Walton believes the win to conclude the regular season is a good confidence builder for the team as they head into tournament play.

 “Winning at home in your last SEC game and taking that into the tournament is huge. My freshman and sophomore years were very two different years of how we did. Sophomore year we closed out the year with wins and continued to win the championship, so this will be a lot of momentum for us going into the tournament,” said Walton. 

With the conclusion of the regular season, the Aggies will head to Orange Beach, Alabama, next week for the SEC Tournament. The Aggies will kick off play against a yet to be determined opponent in the tournament quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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No. 17 Aggies cap regular season with 2-1 Halloween win over Ole Miss

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