Ladyjacks Fall To A&M, 4-1
Nov. 15, 2007
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Despite scoring the first NCAA Tournament goal in Southland Conference history, the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks fell, 4-1, Thursday night at the Aggie Soccer Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Championships. The loss ends SFA's season with a 13-5-2 record - the third-best season win total in SFA history. No. 2 Texas A&M advances to meet Texas in the second round Saturday.
The Aggies (18-3-2) got out a fast start and simply overwhelmed SFA, firing off 36 shots to the Ladyjacks' six. For the game, Texas A&M posted 11 shots on goal, while the Ladyjacks found their target four times.
"They came out extremely hard the first 15 minutes of each half and put a lot of pressure on the ball, which didn't give us a lot of time or space to wiggle around and do what we wanted to with the ball," SFA head coach Jaime Frias said.
By the time SFA recorded its first shot of the game, Texas A&M had already taken 10. Two of the 10 shots found the net in the game's first 10 minutes.
In the fourth minute, Aggie leading scorer Ashlee Pistorius netted the game's first goal when she headed home a cross from Amy Berend. Berend launched the pass from near the left corner of the field and found a leaping Pistorius in front of the far post. Pistorius is the Aggies' leading scorer this season, and the goal gave her sole possession of the school record for career goals with 80.
Berend and Pistorius tried the same combination two minutes later, but SFA goalkeeper Crystin Pactor leaped and batted down the cross, then smothered the ball.
Pistorius got back on the board in the eighth minute, when she dribbled through the left side of the SFA defense and tucked a low shot past Pactor and just inside the far post for her nation-leading 25th goal of the season.
"When we came out, I think we came out nervous," said junior midfielder Amanda Lackey. "We didn't come out prepared enough for what we would face. Once we settled in and realized what we were doing, we were able to stop more shots."
After the quick scoring flurry, the Ladyjacks settled into a rhythm and started finding their stride on the attack. After the Aggies fired off their 10th shot of the game with 28 minutes remaining, SFA quickly took the ensuing possession the other way. Junior midfielder Amanda Lackey started an attack out of the backfield with a long pass ahead to freshman forward Kesia Broome. Broome outran the defense down the right side of the field and fired a shot toward the far post, but A&M goalkeeper Kristin Arnold made a diving save.
Fifteen minutes later, SFA got another goal opportunity when Broome chased a ball deep into the right corner and dropped a centering pass back to sophomore forward Erika Palmacci. She ripped a low shot from 20 yards out, but Arnold scooped it up.
With 10 minutes left, junior midfielder Lauren Fricks gained a step on her defender with a long run down through the right half of the 18-yard box and fired a shot across the field, but the ball sailed high.
"When we found our wing mids, we were very dangerous," Frias said. "We have a lot of speed up there. We got in behind them a couple of times in the first half and more so in the second half. We stressed that at halftime, that if we could find our wing mids and keep possession better, we'd have goal-scoring opportunities."
A&M answered Fricks' attack with a prime scoring opportunity of its own, but Pactor turned the Aggies away. Whitney Hooper started the play by dribbling in on the right side of the 18-yard box. She centerd the ball to Elisabeth Jones who had a clear shot from 12 yards out, but Pactor deflected the ball with her right leg and the follow-up shot off the rebound was high.
Neither team threatened again in the closing minutes of the half, and SFA went to halftime down, 2-0. The Aggies led in total shots, 18-3, and held a 4-2 advantage in shots on goal at the break.
Texas A&M took a 3-0 lead in the 56th minute when Melissa Garey scored on a free kick. She spotted up on the right half of the field from 35 yards out and launched a high, arching shot that bent just inside the near post and out of the reach of a leaping Pactor.
Three minutes later, Garey intercepted an attempt by SFA to clear the ball and fired a high shot from 15 yards out, but Pactor jumped and hauled the ball in. Minutes later, another free kick from close range put A&M in position to score again, but Pactor saved a shot off the head of Amber Gnatzig. Pactor finished the game with seven saves, giving her 85 for the season.
SFA got on the board in the 66th minute, when Broome took a pass from sophomore midfielder Kelli Wilson and outpaced her defender down the left side. She beat A&M back-up goalkeeper Kelly Dyer with a low shot to the far post. The goal was Broome's fourth of the year and marked the first NCAA Tournament goal a Southland Conference team has ever scored. The SLC had been shut out in each of its previous eight championship appearances.
"A&M did a very good job of disrupting our rhythm," Frias said. "They didn't allow us to keep possession. Our other alternative was to connect three or four passes and then go forward. We knew that we had good enough speed to get in behind them. So it was just a matter of connecting a few passes and then trying to ping it in. That's how the goal happened."
The Aggies set the final score on a goal by Inge Harding in the 79th minute. She took a centering pass from Pistorius and fired the shot into the top left corner on one touch.
The NCAA Tournament loss capped a season for the record books at SFA. The Ladyjacks won the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament championships in the same season for the first time in school history. Along the way, Frias became the winningest coach in program history. The Ladyjacks will return every player but senior Keyli Townsend for 2008.
"I don't think words can express how proud I am of my teammates," Townsend said after the game. "I love every single one of them. I am so happy I am part of this team, and they are going to go so many places and do so well."
Her coach echoed Townsend's bright prediction for the future.
"We have a team of veterans now," Frias said. "They know what it's like to play in this tournament. They know what it's like to win the regular-season conference and tournament championship. They know what it takes to be successful, and that's the key."
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