Kunz return sets SEC stage
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 23:09
The Texas A&M women’s soccer team (5-3-1) will be home at Ellis Field at 7:30 p.m. Friday as the Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-5-0) make their first ever trip to College Station.
The two programs may look similar, sporting maroon and white with two dogs — Reveille and Bully — to serve as mascots. Both teams dropped their first SEC conference game, but the two programs also couldn’t be further apart.
The Aggies have made 18 NCAA postseason appearances in 22 seasons under head coach G Guerrieri, while the Bulldogs are still in search of their first ever NCAA tournament berth under first-year head coach Aaron Gordon. In just one season of SEC play, the Aggies have produced more wins in the SEC tournament than the Bulldogs have since their program began in 1995.
Although the Bulldogs won’t come to College Station with the most stellar résumé, Guerrieri said they are still a formidable SEC opponent with talent that could play anywhere in the country.
“I think that [Mississippi] State will come in and battle, and they will be a really, really hard working, blue collar team – that’s what I expect of them,” Guerrieri said. “They’ve got a couple of really talented goal scorers, especially Elisabeth Sullivan. I mean, she’s legit. She could play for any team in this league and she is one of the best strikers in the conference. So we’ve got to be cautious of her, know that she’s got good speed, and that she can go left and right.”
Throughout the season, the Aggies have outshot their opponents by a staggering 192-96, taking over 21 shots per game. Despite the lopsided number, A&M has only capitalized on 18 of those shots, something the Aggies are striving to improve.
“We’ve gotten to where we are taking a little higher percentage shots, and we got some really good looks last Friday [at Tennessee] that we just missed the goal — we hit it wide, hit it high, instead of just cracking it in the back of the net,” Guerrieri said. “So we’ve been improving steadily in our shot selection and it’s been a good week so far in kind of building up to that as well. Finishing is one thing, but finishing from the right places is more of what we need to be doing.”
After missing the last four games from a leg injury, star striker Annie Kunz traded in her crutches for a pair of cleats and hit the practice field this week. Guerrieri said they will be “easing her in” but any production from the junior will be a boost for the A&M attack.
“I mean, it feels pretty good, just kind of feel a little rusty because I haven’t done anything on it in two weeks,” said Kunz. “Just kind of getting back into that rhythm and getting my touch back and getting used to the play and intensity that I need to be at. But other than that, pain-wise, it feels really good.”
Last Friday, the Aggies opened SEC play in Knoxville with a loss against a tough Tennessee Volunteers squad. With 13 minutes remaining in the first half, the Aggies committed a foul in the box giving a penalty kick to Caroline Brown who put the Volunteers up 1-0. Despite coming out strong in the second half, and outshooting Tennessee 15-8 in the game, the Aggies were unable to gain the equalizer.
“[We’re] just taking this loss and running with it and make it a point to not lose any more games and coming out as hard as we can the rest of the conference games,” said junior Meghan Streight. “We need to come out strong and make a statement as soon as we step on the field, and not be just a second-half team.”
Following Friday’s match against Mississippi State, the Aggies will continue conference play when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.