Arizona soccer looks to advance to third round of NCAAs

Rebecca Marie Sasnett | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona soccer forward Alexandra Doller (2) and midfielder LeeAndra Smith (17) are recognized during senior day on Oct. 26 at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium. Doller, Smith and the Wildcats play against a familiar Texas A&M team this weekend in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Arizona soccer (11-7-2) continues its postseason run when the Wildcats head to College Station, Texas, to take on the Texas A&M Aggies in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday at 6 p.m. local time.

The Wildcats advanced to the second round after they knocked off Oklahoma State after Arizona forward Ali Doller scored the game’s only goal in the Wildcats close 1-0 road victory. The victory over Oklahoma State was the first Arizona victory in the NCAA tournament since 2005, when the Wildcats advanced all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.

Friday night’s matchup will be a difficult one for Arizona, but the Aggies will be no stranger to the Wildcats, as the two teams faced off early in the season at the Sun Devil Classic in Tempe. In that early September game, Arizona nearly pulled off a huge upset, but Texas A&M netted a late equalizer with less than a minute remaining, and the two teams tied at 2-2.

Playing the Aggies for the second time this season could benefit the Wildcats, Doller said.

“I am excited for the game,” Doller said. “I think we have a little more confidence going into it, because we have already played them, so we have an idea of what to expect. It’s the playoffs; it could be our last game, so I think our team is going into it with an edge, with nothing to lose.”

The Wildcats’ near-victory over the Aggies is even more impressive considering how dominant Texas A&M has been the rest of the season.

With a record of 19-2-2, the Aggies rolled through their regular season and the SEC Tournament and claimed one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. On Friday, Texas A&M dominated Houston Baptist 5-0 in the first round setting up a rematch with the Wildcats.

For Arizona to come away with possibly the biggest upset in program history, the Wildcats will need to slow down one of the best offensive teams in the country.

The Aggies have scored an astonishing 59 goals this season and are led by forward Shea Groom, who was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year after scoring a team-high 15 goals and assisting on another five. Groom isn’t the Aggies’ only weapon, however, as Texas A&M has six players with at least six goals, including Kelly Monogue, who has 13 of her own.

Arizona midfielder LeeAndra Smith said she believes all that the team has gone through the past few seasons will benefit it against Texas A&M.

“I am excited to be in this position,” Smith said. “When my other teammates and I arrived at the program and had a rough couple of seasons, we were not sure if we would ever see the tournament. Since this team has fought and earned all that we have this season, I do not see Friday’s match being any different. We are all focused, excited and ready to compete.”

Friday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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