Memphis Falls to Texas A&M In First Round of NCAA Tournament
Baton Rouge, La.- The University of Memphis women’s soccer team made its third-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, but the Texas A&M Aggies scored three goals in the first half en route to a 3-1 victory in Baton Rouge, La.
“It’s never easy to be sitting here and not be on the winning side,” head coach Brooks Monaghan said. “The No. 1 thing is that I’m really proud of this group and we’re not going to let one loss take away from a great season. We really didn’t have an answer for (Texas A&M forward) Whitney Hooper tonight. We had the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year (Kelsey Bakker) who didn’t play tonight, and we would have put her on Hooper. I’m not saying the score would have changed, but that’s something we missed. All excuses to the side, Texas A&M is a great program. Again, I’m just extremely proud of this group of girls and we’re not going to let this one loss put a complete damper on our season.”
Alyssa Mautz gave the Aggies the early lead in the fifth minute after she found a free ball in the middle of the field. Nora Skelton and Whitney Hooper were credited with assists after Mautz scored from 10 yards out, just inside the right post.
Hooper increased the Aggie lead to 2-0 six minutes later, as she chipped the ball from 12 yards out just over the finger tips of Memphis netminder Elise Kuhar-Pitters.
Junior forward Ashley Berra notched her 15th goal of the season in the 16th minute to pull Memphis back within one goal of the Aggies. Freshman forward Taylor Isenhower was credited with the assist after serving the ball to Berra on the left side.
Hooper scored her second goal of the match in the 25th minute, giving the Aggies the 3-1 lead. After stealing the ball away in the midfield, Hooper drove down the field and fired a shot from eight yards out that went in the back right corner of the net.
“Hooper is very fast, to say the least. I really think she was the difference maker,” Monaghan said. “You’ve got to have your big-time players step up, and she did tonight. I would love to play this game again or play it without her on the field. Hooper was on a different level this evening and you have to give credit to her. She had a big time game.”
Aggie goalkeeper Kelly Dyer went into the dressing room having made three saves, but was replaced by Kristin Arnold in the second half.
Sophomore forward Lizzy Simonin fired a shot on frame in the first minute of the second half. Arnold got a finger tip on the shot by Simonin. After the deflection by Arnold, Simonin’s shot bounced off the crossbar and Arnold was able to cover the ball up to end the scoring chance.
Each team recorded two shots in the second half and Memphis finished the match having outshot the Aggies 10-9. Arnold and Dyer combined to make four saves in the contest.
Senior midfielder Brittany Baldwin and Dalton finished their careers with the U of M program as the winningest class in school history with 59 victories.
“I think we played well, but Hooper was the difference maker,” said senior midfielder Tori Dalton. “She’s a fast girl, and I don’t think we were ready for her speed. If she hadn’t been in the game I think it would have been a very even match, if not us being the better team. It’s unfortunate the way it ended.”
Texas A&M advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 15th consecutive season with the victory and will play the host LSU Tigers or Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the second round match-up in Baton Rouge, La.
“I think we were really unfortunate not to get the win,” said freshman forward Taylor Isenhower. I think there were times where we played really well, but we didn’t finish our chances. Hopefully we’ll do better next year.”