Texas State soccer (4-11-1 overall, 4-4 Sun Belt) travels to Ellis Field for its penultimate game of the season against the No. 23 Texas A&M University Aggies (9-3 overall, 7-1 SEC) on March 27.
The young Texas State squad faces the toughest challenge of their 2021 stretch of games after a canceled game against the No. 4 Texas Christian University on March 13 and a March 5, 4-0 rout at the feet of the University of Texas. The Bobcats, who have never beaten the Aggies come in as clear underdogs. The Aggies have made Ellis Field a veritable fortress with eight home victories in a row.
Out of four possible games in the spring, the Bobcats only took the pitch twice, so there still has not been too much time for Head Coach Kat Conner’s preferred lineup to emerge. Certain players who are not already starters have staked their claims as fixtures for the future, like sophomore forward Madison Humphrey, whose drifting runs from her striker position to create numerical advantages on the wing have been a prominent tactic.
Texas A&M cruises into the game off a 2-0 win against a familiar face for Texas State — the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. The Aggies dominated the Sun Belt side, outshooting them 21 to two with ten on target for the winners and none for their opponents.
The Aggies’ top scorer (5) freshman midfielder Barbara Olivieri failed to find the back of the net against Louisiana, but she averages a goal about every other game. Olivieri also leads the team in assists with three.
Offensive Aggie dominance should concern the Bobcats, as they produced zero goals, only four shots and one on target over their last two games to their opponents’ five goals, 47 total shots and 17 on target. How Texas State reacts to the Aggies’ ambition in possession determines the game. The Bobcat defense proved shakier than its 2020 outings, but turnover and departures were not an issue for the backline, so it could be written off as a result of higher-caliber opponents.
The team as a whole still struggles from deep build-up; the midfielders are tasked with the majority of the play creation, meaning teams clamping down on players like freshman midfielder Mya Ulloa force defenders and forwards to help move the ball forward. For defenders, this usually means driven lobs for the wingers to chase down or a clearance launched into the air for a 50/50.
Texas State must be clinical on the counter or be bold and take the game to the Aggies, a style of play they have yet to attempt this year. The games scheduled for the spring semester are admittedly “baptisms-by-fire”, and the lessons learned in losses are valuable, but Conner will likely want a game to end with more positives than negatives before the start of the regular season.
Texas State will face Texas A&M at 7 p.m. on March 27 at Ellis Field in College Station, Texas.