COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M sophomore Kelly Dyer earned the first shut out of her career and sophomore Inge Harding scored in the 51st minute as the Aggies blanked No. 16 California, 1-0, in front of 3,323 fans at the Aggie Soccer Stadium on Friday evening.
The second-half goal and smothering defensive play helped A&M improve to 6-1-0 on the season, while Cal fell to 5-2-0 after giving up just its fifth goal of the year.
“The speed of play was terrific tonight and the 3,300 people saw a great match with two teams that were here to battle,” said head coach G Guerrieri. “It was a scrappy game and we had to defend hard against an excellent Cal team. I was proud of the defenders and it was a good time to get a shutout. This is a very young team, but they are growing up. Being able to win gritty games like this is really important to us and our success.”
Dyer recorded five saves in the shutout and Harding netted her first game-winner and second goal of the year. As a team, the Aggies tallied 11 shots, nine of which were on target.
Laura Grace Robinson took A&M’s first shot after a yellow card was given to Cal just outside the penalty box in the 12th minute. The senior midfielder blasted the ball into the upper half of the goal, but Bear keeper Gina Pellegrini punched the ball over the back of the goal. A corner kick taken by freshman Beth West allowed Robinson and junior Amber Gnatzig a shot each, but the Cal keeper made two quick saves.
With possession belonging to both teams throughout the period, Harding entered the match in the 39th minute and made an impact on the attack almost immediately.
With just over two minutes remaining in the half, sophomore Alyssa Mautz sent a through ball to Harding inside the box where the Dripping Springs, Texas, native was fouled hard setting up a penalty kick. The shot was saved by an outstretched Pellegrini to keep the match scoreless at the half.
The Aggies came out on the attack quickly after the 15-minute break and Harding was on the field to start the second period.
Six minutes into the half, sophomore Rachel Shipley sent a cross into the box from the right side and as a Cal defender came across, Robinson slid in, contacting the ball. Harding was right behind the senior midfielder and got a shot off. Pellegrini managed to punch the shot back out, but Harding collected the rebound and put the ball in the goal over the head of the Cal keeper.
Pressure came from the Bears later in the period as they earned four corner kicks and fired off four shots in a two-minute span. The Aggie defense was relentless and blocked two of the shots, while Dyer made a key one-handed save on the only shot on goal in the series.
A&M travels to Houston on Sunday to take on Rice in a match that is televised on CBS College Sports. The kickoff is set for noon.
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