soccer 10/18

Texas State senior midfielder/forward Mackenzie Smith (18) fights against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock junior midfielder Fanney Einarsdottir (25) to get the ball, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, at Bobcat Soccer Complex. The Bobcats won 2-1 over the Trojans.

An overmatched Texas State soccer (4-12-1 overall, 4-4 Sun Belt) lost its third straight game of the year 3-0 to the No. 23 Texas A&M University Aggies (10-3 overall, 7-1 SEC) on March 27.

In search of their first win of 2021, the Bobcats traveled to Ellis Field for their biggest challenge of the season thus far, as their match against No. 4 Texas Christian University was canceled.

Unimpressive in their first two games of the season against the University of North Texas and the University of Texas, something needed to change to get a positive result against the confident Aggies. The first half proved to be more of the same, however; the visitors barricaded their goal and looked for counter-attack opportunities.

Bobcat forwards found themselves on an island in the first half, Texas State committing almost the entire team beyond the ball, leaving the lone striker to chase after clearances or loose balls after Aggie attacks.

Texas State played with an excess of respect for their opponents, sitting back and not pressuring the three-defender backline. Should a forward and two outside midfielders choose to pressure the three defenders, they would force a usually less technically gifted position to make bold or quick passes, allowing the Bobcats to capitalize on errors. Instead, the Aggies calmly held onto the ball, finding players in wide areas with ease.

The Aggies rained danger from the air, corners a constant threat, and earning nine corner kicks in the first half and 14 in total to Texas State’s one. Sample connected with many passes into the area from the corner flag, giving the freshman goalkeeper Beth Agee a much more active first half than even the previous two games. Agee added five saves to her season total of 87, which is third in the nation.

Constant Aggie pressure eventually broke the Bobcats' base when freshman midfielder Taylor Pounds poked a ball low to Agee’s right and into the net in the 20th minute, her first goal of 2021 and her second of the season.

Texas State’s only dangerous chances of the half came in the last minutes when an error from the Aggies resulted in a through ball from Wright to Clark, whose shot — the first Bobcat shot on goal of the spring — met the hands of sophomore goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell.

The second half began with more urgency, the Bobcats pressing the Aggie backline in possession much more than the first half. The press is a hallmark of Head Coach Kat Conner’s style, but it rarely made an appearance in the previous two games. For a few moments, the Bobcats looked to have the necessary bite to even the game. A shot from sophomore Kamaria Williams in the 49th minute saved by Caldwell seemed to prove the change in philosophy could bear fruit.

The grace period caused by the Bobcats’ increased aggression quickly ended, however; the space created by a more ambitious midfield left the Aggies more room on the counter and easier transitions of play. Pounds connected with freshman midfielder Barabara Olivieri, who doubled the Aggie lead in the 60th minute, ruining the first elongated stretch of positive play of the game for Texas State.

From then on, the Aggies reasserted the comfortable dominance characterizing the first half. The siege found success in the 86th minute when sophomore midfielder Kendall Bates buried from a long-range effort at Agee’s far post from just over 25 yards out to make it 3-0.

Freshman forward Olivia Wright added one more shot, wide right, to Texas State’s count, but the game ended uneventfully. The Bobcats remain goalless and winless to start the year but did flash offensive capabilities not seen in the previous two games.

The last game of the season may have the biggest stakes of the year for the Bobcats as they face the University of San Antonio Texas in the I-35 Rivalry on March 31.

The last matchup between the two schools was a 1-0 Texas State victory on August 30, 2019. The Bobcats have yet to win on the road, but there is an opportunity to end the season on a derby win.

Texas State will face UTSA at 7 p.m. on March 31 at Park West Athletics Complex in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be streamed on C-USA TV.

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