A&M opens conference play against Vols
No. 20 Aggies travel to Tennessee to face historically tough league opponent
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 22:09
Coming off a 4-0 shellacking of the Cal Poly Mustangs Sunday and ending non-conference play with a 5-2-1 record, the No. 20 Aggies hit the road to take on the University of Tennessee Volunteers on Friday.
The match in Knoxville will mark the opening of A&M’s 2013 SEC play.
With star striker Annie Kunz still out with the leg injury she suffered against Baylor, freshman forward Liz Keester and the team’s unity has been vital to the Aggies’ recent success.
“I think we are definitely ready for it and geared up,” Keester said. “I have never been on a team that’s so close, and I think [it] definitely shows on the field as well.”
The Aggies enter this year’s conference play with an air of confidence. Last year, in their inaugural season in the SEC, the Aggies posted a 10-2-1 conference record, earning them the SEC Western Division crown.
“Everyone in the SEC is competitive — great teams, great conference,” said junior forward Shea Groom. “I think that we just kind of worry about ourselves though, and we are a team that’s looking to improve and we have been improving this whole non-conference. This is when it really starts to count.”
The Friday matchup between the Aggies and the Volunteers will be the third meeting between the two programs, and only the second meeting as conference foes.
“There are going to be a few more big-time players [on Tennessee] that we have to watch out for and just have a little bit more combination and patience with our play,” Groom said. “But I think we are prepared for it and ready to get out there and win the SEC championship.”
The Aggies visited Tennessee in a non-conference match in 2011 and again in 2012 as SEC foes. Despite outshooting the Volunteers 16-8 and 23-9 respectively, A&M fell short in both matchups, becoming the only SEC school the Aggies have yet to defeat.
Like the Aggies, Tennessee is coming off a strong year in the SEC, finishing third place in the SEC East on their way to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Tennessee’s offense is spearheaded by sophomore forward Hannah Wilkinson. With five goals and three assists this season, Wilkinson also has a plethora of outside experience, having represented New Zealand’s national team in the 2011 Women’s FIFA World Cup and in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Aggie head coach G Guerrieri said that, even with the potent Wilkinson up top, the Volunteers are more of a defensive-minded team, only giving up goals on really good shots or set pieces.
Regardless of the opponent, one thing remains constant among Aggie coaches and
“It’s us. It’s about us,” Guerrieri said. “We’ve got to polish the things that we’ve been doing OK and make sure that we get a little more quality out of each of our attacks and that we learn from the things we do.”
Following Friday’s game in Knoxville, A&M will make the journey back to Texas and continue SEC play when it prepares to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Ellis Field Sep. 27.
“As much as anything, we have to be able to play within ourselves,” Guerrieri said. “Too many times we’re trying to do more than we should be asking ourselves to do. It’s kind of like in basketball. If you’re not a three-point shooter, don’t shoot three pointers. That’s kind of where we are. You’re here because you’ve got special skills, use those special skills. Let’s not try and do things beyond our capacity