COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M sophomore Whitney Hooper scored two second-half goals to lead the seventh-ranked Aggie soccer team to a 2-0 shutout of Nebraska on Senior Night Friday evening at the Aggie Soccer Stadium.
After A&M’s seniors, Laura Grace Robinson and Micah Stephens, were honored in front of 3,285 fans, Hooper netted her second and third goals of the season and sophomore goalkeeper Kelly Dyer recorded her fourth shutout of the year to keep A&M (11-1-1, 4-0-1 Big 12) atop the Big12. Nebraska (7-6-1, 3-2-0 Big 12) suffered their second-straight conference loss.
“Nebraska has their own style and they played great tonight,” said head coach G Guerrieri. “We had to play outstanding. To shutout this Husker team, with the confidence and the passion they play with, is a pretty good accomplishment for our young back line. This team continues to amaze a lot, in that they keep coming. We’re so much better now than we were at the beginning of the year and I think the best is still ahead of us.”
A&M put pressure on Nebraska in the first half as the midfield and the back line controlled possession and opened up several scoring opportunities.
Five minutes into the match, Robinson rifled a shot from 15 yards that Husker keeper Brittany Pfeil punched out. Sophomore Alyssa Mautz sprinted into the six-yard box getting a foot on the rebound and then had another chance that bounced off the near post and behind the end line.
In the 21st minute, Robinson was on the left flank and sent a pass to junior Amber Gnatzig on right side. The Humble, Texas, native found Beth West at the top of the box and a hard shot on the ground by the freshman was stopped by Pfeil.
Freshman Bri Young had two chances on free kicks from long distance that she was able to put on goal, but not past the Husker keeper.
The Aggies outshot Nebraska 13-3 in the first half and forced Pfeil to make seven saves, as A&M and Nebraska went into the 15-minute break scoreless.
On senior night, one of the best struck balls came off the foot of Robinson in the 59th minute as she sent a laser from 30 yards that just missed the frame. Minutes later, the Houston, Texas, native set up A&M’s first goal lofting a ball in to Hooper on the right side. From the corner of the six-yard box, the sophomore fired the ball across the goal and into the back of the netting to put the Aggies up 1-0.
While facing a one-goal deficit, the Huskers put pressure on A&M’s defense with perhaps their best opportunity to equalize coming on a corner kick in the 65th minute. Selenia Iachelli shot the ball on goal with a header that freshman Rebecca Herrera saved off the back post. A second chance by Anna Caniglia was stopped by a diving Dyer on the line.
The Aggies were not satisfied with a one-goal lead and struck again in the 86th minute. Freshman Rachael Balaguer cleared the ball to Gnatzig who had space and passed it off to West on the right side. The Centennial, Colo., product got around a Husker defender and laid a ball across the face of the goal that a sliding Hooper drove into the back of the net.
“We challenged our forwards at half time to do more. I thought they all picked up their game and obviously Whitney getting two goals was huge,” said Guerrieri.
With the win, A&M improves to 11-13-1 all-time against Nebraska. The Aggies outshot the Huskies 20-12, with nine strikes on frame.
A&M soccer returns to the pitch on Sunday to host the Cyclones of Iowa State at 1:30 p.m.
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