BATON ROUGE – A record-setting season for the 10th-ranked LSU soccer team came to an end Sunday afternoon as the Tigers dropped a 4-2 decision to Texas A&M in a penalty kick shootout after battling the Aggies to a 1-1 draw in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The match is officially recorded as a draw after both sides were unable to break the 1-1 deadlock in two 10-minute overtime periods.
It marked the first meeting between LSU (15-4-5) and Texas A&M (15-6-3) on the soccer field as the 22nd-ranked Aggies advanced to take on No. 1 seed Florida State in the Sweet 16.
“I thought today was a great college soccer game with incredible intensity and efforts from both teams, but full credit to Texas A&M,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “I thought their work rate was exceptional, especially after having the tough game Friday. We were moving the ball forward and we had a couple of good chances, but we just didn’t finish them.”
The first half was an even-sided affair as both teams struggled to take control of the match. Senior Melissa Clarke gave the Tigers the best opportunity of the period just over 10 minutes in after she dribbled into the box and fired a strike from 10 yards off the left post as Texas A&M goalkeeper Kelly Dyer was out of position after falling to the ground.
The Aggies open the scoring in the second half when senior defender Emily Peterson headed in a corner kick off the foot of midfielder Rachel Shipley in the 66th minute.
But the Texas A&M lead was short-lived as two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Year and two-time Hermann Trophy candidate Malorie Rutledge drew a penalty less than two minute later after being taken down in the area by Aggie defender Lyndsey Gnatzig. Clarke converted the ensuring penalty kick against substitute goalkeeper Kristin Arnold to level the score at 1-1.
“I just took the ball one-on-one and she didn’t cover,” Rutledge said. “She stripped it from me but then I stuck my foot in there and then when I tried to cross the ball she just took my legs out from under me. Melissa stepped up and made it count.”
“The quick response is something that we work a lot on,” Lee said. “Whether we score a goal or they score a goal, we always try and push those next couple of minutes. Malorie Rutledge has drawn three or four penalties this year running the back line so it’s not surprising it happened. We were just hoping to get the second one behind it.”
The two goals seemed to raise the level of intensity as each side searched for the goal that would keep their season alive. But despite several second-half chances, neither team was able to find the back of the net before time expired in regulation.
Through 90 minutes of regulation, Texas A&M outshot LSU by a 13-9 count, including a narrow 4-3 edge in shots on goal. The Tigers held a 6-5 advantage in corner kicks in regulation.
However, the two extended periods belonged mostly to the Aggies as both teams struggled during an unusually hot November afternoon in Baton Rouge. In 20 minutes of overtime, the Aggies put five shots in the direction of LSU goalkeeper Mo Isom, while the Tigers only attempted on shot.
The penalty kick shootout fell much the same way as it did a week ago when the Tigers dropped a close 8-7 penalty kick decision to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament championship game.
Mary Grace Schmidt stepped up to the penalty spot for the Aggies and converted the first penalty of the shootout. Aggies head coach G. Guerrieri then elected to substitute Dyer back into the game for the shootout, and it was a move that paid dividends for Texas A&M as the junior keeper responded by saving LSU’s first penalty kick taken by Rutledge.
After each side converted its next two kicks, Peterson netted her penalty kick to bring the score to 4-2 in favor of Texas A&M. Needing a goal to avoid elimination, LSU called upon senior Melissa Clarke, who converted a penalty kick to tie the match at 1-1 in regulation.
But this time, Clarke’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced out of play and Texas A&M advanced to the Sweet 16 next weekend to face No. 1 national seed Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.
Despite a heartbreaking ending to a stellar career, the LSU senior class of 2009 ended its career as the most successful class in school history with three-straight SEC Western Division titles and three-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. It is also the winningest class in the history of the program with 50 wins to its credit in four seasons from 2006-09.
“We are very happy for our senior class that they were able to come here and change the program and get us to this point,” said Lee. “We are extremely excited about the future with some of the kids already in the program and ones that are coming in. We will be here again and I think we will break through and do more in the NCAA Tournament in the coming years. I think the seniors deserve a lot of credit for getting us to this point.”