COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Junior forward Yvette Okler scored two goals to
lead 13th-ranked Texas A&M to a 4-1 victory Sunday over the No. 16 Clemson
Lady Tigers in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Division I Women's Soccer
Championships before a season-high home crowd of 672 fans at the Aggie
One of six teams making their NCAA debut, the Aggies improved to 18-5
on the season and to 4-4 versus top 20 teams. Clemson, playing in its second tournament in two years as a Division I program, ended the 1995 season with a
14-7 mark, including a 1-7 record against ranked opposition.
"It's great to have never lost an NCAA gmae, and it would be nice to
keep it that way," A&M head coach G. Guerrieri said. "We knew coming in that Clemson was a talented team and that Carmie Landeen was a great player. They were coming off a quality season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Meredith McCullen is a first-team All-ACC goalkeeper, and we knew that if we allowed her to get into a rhythm, we would be in trouble. On most of the goals we scored, we had her moving. Everybody has a couple of stars. It was a situation where we needed to concentrate on what we do best; controlling the game and keeping the ball on our end.
"The biggest part of our success this year has been the pressure we apply to the other team's midfield and defense. Their big thing was their work rate, which is also one of our strong points. We were able to break their pressure so that we had time to face and go to goal."
Junior forward Kristen Koop opened the day's scoring a mere four minutes into the contest, converting a pass from junior midfielder Jamie Csizmadia to give A&M the early lead. Clemson answered at the 27:28 mark when freshman defender Sharon Pickering crossed an over-the-top pass to sophomore midfielder Lissa Mansberry, who then went one-on-one against Aggie goalkeeper Sunny McConnell for the score. However, the momentum quickly shifted back to A&M when Okler netted the first of her two goals on a header off a cross from junior midfielder Kim Duda in the 33rd minute to put A&M up 2-1 heading into the intermission.
In the 46th minute, Okler struck again. Sophomore forward Bryn Blalack was denied when her 18-yard blast hit the post, but Okler was there to pick up the score on the three-yard rebound. Freshman forward Nicole Shook then added an insurance goal in the final two minutes, scoring on a through pass from Blalack.
With two goals, Okler notched her first multiple-goal match of the season and only the third of her A&M career. In addition, with two assists in the match, Blalack upped her '95 total to 11 to become one of two players who are one assist shy of the A&M all-time season record (12), held by Duda.
As a team, A&M was outshot for only the sixth time this season, posting 11 shots to Clemson's 15 to even their record at 3-3 when on the losing end of the shooting spectrum. In addition, the Aggies recorded 12 corner kicks to the Lady Tigers' three. McConnell finished with eight saves, while McCullen, who had allowed just 13 total goals coming into the match, combined with sophomore Suzanne Putnam for four.
"Overall, we had a lot of problems with the wind, especially in the first half," Clemson head coach Tracey Leone said. "In the second half, we couldn't take advantage of the wind as well as A&M did. The fans got to see the game they wanted. It was a back and forth game that was very exciting.
"I think our team was excited about the challenge to return to the NCAA playoffs. The second year is almost tougher than the first because there is more pressure to succeed and go farther than you did the year before. A&M played a great game, and they deserved to win. We knew about their dangerous attack, and we were expecting it. They attack with a lot of numbers and mobility, and that is what makes them so dangerous. They have scored a lot of goals this year, and it was a challenge for us to stop them. Texas A&M has a very good chance of going on. I have never seen SMU so I can't really make a prediction, but Texas A&M has a very good team."
By virtue of the win, A&M now will travel to Dallas for a second-round matchup against No. 3 SMU (21-0-1), which was one of eight teams to receive a first-round bye. The Aggies are 0-2 versus the Lady Mustangs in '95, losing 1-3 in the Oct. 25 clash for the Southwest Conference regular season title and 2-4 in overtime on Nov. 5 in the championship match of the SWC Tournament. First kick is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Wescott Field (capacity 3,500), also the site of the season's previous two meetings.
"SMU is infinitely confident," Guerrieri said. "They have beaten us twice, the game will be played on their home field, they've had a chance to rest; everything is in their favor. Obviously, they have the No. 1 and 2 scorers in the nation (Danielle Garrett, Courtney Linex), but they also have two outstanding flank players in Ryanne Bumps and Melissa Kittner. Those two have been the ones we've struggled with in the past. Clemson threw three forwards at us, but they didn't use their flankers as much as SMU does. We know we're going to have to play better coming in as the lower-seeded team. Our goal this season was to play this game. Now it's simple dividends. SMU has been to the tournament three times. They haven't won a game; we have. Destiny is what you make of it. We created a lot of chances in the past matchup, but they took advantage of their opportunities. That's history, and we can't go back. It's a matter of learning from it."
Courtesy of Texas A&M University