Texas A&M University is a special place for a host of reasons, which is why so many special athletes leave College Station every year. Von Miller, who opened a vision center on campus, and Mike Evans, who donated $40,000 in scholarships, are prime examples of that.
It's the student-athletes that make each and every program at A&M so successful, and that rings especially true for the women's sports that have kicked the men's butts since first joining the Big 12 in 1996. Look no further than softball winning the school's first and second ever national championships, or the women's swimming and diving team dominating the Southeastern Conference every year as evidence of that.
The 22nd-ranked Texas A&M women's soccer may be the best of those programs.
The Aggies advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, marking the 25th straight year the school's soccer team has earned a berth in the tournament. TAMU is historically good on the field, winning nine SEC regular-season titles and eight conference tournament crowns.
The one thing missing: a national championship.
Here's why that could change as the Aggies navigate their way through the NCAA Tournament.
Why Texas A&M Is Dangerous
Texas A&M is led by two stars.
Nobody in the SEC has scored more goals or points per game than senior forward Ally Watt, who was an All-SEC First Team selection and SEC Forward of the Year this season. In one regular season game against Missouri, she scored four goals, the second time in her career doing so. Her mindset afterward was not only impressive but indicative of the type of leader she is.
"We were all just saying we have plenty of time, 43 minutes left in the half, plenty of game left," Watt told The Eagle. "But we were sleeping out there, so I decided we needed to wake up and get this done because we can't let this slip away. If we want to get a good seed for the SEC tournament and help our RPI for NCAAs, we can't lose games like this. The team got the message, and it got done, and it was a combination of everyone in there."
Junior defender Jimena Lopez, who paces the conference in assists per game, was named an All-SEC First Team selection and SEC Midfielder of the Year.
Then there's the fact that the Aggies are coached by G. Guerrieri, who's in his 27th season at the helm of the program and due for another deep run in the tournament. Guerrieri's 458 wins ranks fourth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches, and his .756 winning percentage ranks seventh.
By the way, yes, he's the only coach Aggies soccer has ever known.
At 14-4-3 this season, including taking care of business in conference play to the tune of a 7-2-1 record, TAMU just needs to get hot in November.
If goalkeeper Shantel Hutton can pitch shutouts the way she did this season against Ohio State, Pepperdine, UNLV, UTRGV, TCU and Abilene Christian, Aggie soccer will be in good hands.
Ending the Texas Longhorns' Season
The Aggies sawed off the Texas Longhorns in a renewed rivalry match in the first round of the tournament at College Stations' Ellis Field on Nov. 15. They were led by senior midfielder Grace Piper and sisters Taylor and Tera Ziemer, who all scored goals. UT also scored on an own goal.
"How could you not perform with a crowd like that tonight? It was around 3,000," associate head coach Phil Stephenson said in a release. "An absolutely amazing showing by the 12th Man, and the team rose to the occasion. They were great."
The win meant the Maroon and White advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd straight season, which is the third-longest active streak in the nation. The going only gets tougher, though, as the Aggies face a much tougher opponent in No. 9 USC on Nov. 22 in Los Angeles.
Though the Aggies women's soccer team have gone just 1-2 against nationally ranked opponents this season (the lone win a 3-2 victory over Santa Clara), the gauntlet of SEC teams like Mississippi State, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss have prepared them for this moment.
South Carolina and Arkansas are the only other SEC teams ranked higher than Texas A&M.
TAMU's best finish to a season came in 2014 when they finished No. 4 in the country after making the NCAA College Cup. Who says they can't go further in 2019?
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