DURHAM, N.C. - Freshman Shea Groom netted the game-winning goal in overtime as the Texas A&M soccer team upset No. 1 North Carolina, 4-3, Sunday at Koskinen Stadium in the final day of the Duke Nike Classic.
A furious comeback by the never-say-die Aggies (4-4-0) in the final 20 minutes of the match closed a 1-3 deficit for A&M (5-1-0) and sent the game into overtime, tied 3-3, saw Groom finish off the No. 1 Tar Heels 30 seconds into the final period.
"Obviously, I'm really happy for our girls," head coach G Guerrieri said. "I just couldn't be more proud of them for the fight that they put in today. To be able to beat North Carolina after being down two goals in the second half and to come back to score 3 in 21 minutes for the win was a remarkable statement by our players."
The Aggies exemplified a winner's attitude and never quit, outshooting top-ranked UNC 20-13 throughout the match.
In a determined effort to rally after North Carolina netted the first goal in the sixth minute, the Aggies created several pressure situations in the A&M attacking half. Senior Merritt Mathias led the attack, firing off a shot in the 25th minute from point-blank range at a scrambling UNC goalkeeper. The keeper grabbed the save but Mathias was back three minutes later with a similar shot from eight yards that slammed into the body of a defender. The senior forward put two of three shots on frame in the duration of the match, and assisted two goals.
The Aggies' hard work paid off in the 32nd minute when freshman Annie Kunz netted the equalizer. Freshman Bianca Brinson set up the play, bringing the ball into the A&M attacking third and slipping Kunz a pass in the box.
Kunz crashed in on the goal and fired a volley at the UNC goalkeeper who dove to make a save. The Aggie forward wasted no time when the ball popped back out of the keeper's hands, kicking the rebound into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
With just three minutes left in the first period, the Tar Heels again took the lead after a corner kick. A&M goalkeeper Renée McDermott dove when the ball was knocked down in the six-yard box by a UNC player but the ball popped out of her grip in the tangle and North Carolina was able to send a kick into the back of the net for the lead going into halftime.
"From a defensive standpoint, we were disappointed to give up three goals on set pieces, but our team defending all over the field was pretty solid all day long," Guerrieri said. "The back four had great performances to block and deny scoring opportunities. Same thing with our forwards and midfielders, being able to keep pressure on the ball and keep North Carolina out of the most dangerous situations."
The second half started with the same high level of play by both teams, keeping the intensity in the second half. In the 48th minute, the referee awarded UNC another corner kick that Tar Heel defender Taylor Ramirez finished to put Carolina up 3-1.
A&M never lost heart, though. In the 71st minute a scoring opportunity arose when a Tar Heels defender was pressured and dispossessed by Mathias, who sent a cross from the end line to junior Nora Skelton, at the edge of the six-yard box.
Skelton one-timed a shot that was tapped back as the UNC goalkeeper dove to block. With two Tar Heels now guarding the goal, the Aggie forward regained control of the rebound and scored on a second shot to narrow the score to a 3-2 UNC lead.
Rarely allowing the ball in its defensive third for the majority of the time remaining in regulation play, A&M fought to find the goal and earned three corner kicks in the next seven minutes. On the third attempt, Mathias' lob found freshman Meghan Streight on the far side of the goal. Streight headed the game-tying ball into the back of the net to push the game to a draw for the second time.
The Tar Heels couldn't get past the swarming Aggie defense as the clock ran out on regulation play with the game tied at 3-3.
A throw in at the beginning of the 10-minute overtime period was won by senior Megan Majewski, who quickly slipped a pass to Monogue who then turned and slotted the ball behind the UNC back line to the speedy Groom. The freshman forward zoomed past defenders and swung right in the box to go one-on-one against Sieloff. Groom's golden goal zipped past the keeper just inside the left post and gave the Aggies their second victory all-time against the 21-time national champion Tar Heels.
"I think we're probably part of a really small club, the club that can say that they were down to North Carolina, 3-1, and were able to come back and win, 4-3," Guerrieri said. "UNC is such a talented and well coached team. It's quite an accomplishment for our young talented team."
This match was also only the second time in UNC history that the team gave up three consecutive goals. The last time the Aggies defeated the Tar Heels was in 2006, for the first time in A&M history. McDermott had five saves in her fourth start for the Aggies.
The Aggies will return home Friday to host Baylor in the conference opener at Ellis Field. The match is set for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. A 12:30 p.m. game against Fordham on Sunday will close out the weekend.
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