Aggie soccer team heads to North Carolina

The Aggies enter the weekend ranked at No. 2 in the nation--the highest ranking in school history. But with a win over the storied program of North Carolina this weekend, the Aggies could come back ranked No. 1. Aggie Websider's Blake Berend previews the big match this weekend.

Sporting the highest ranking in program history, the No. 2 ranked Texas A&M women's soccer team departs on a daunting road trip against some of the best competition in women's collegiate soccer. The match against defending national champion North Carolina has the potential to beef up the Aggies resume come December plus prepare the team for tough road atmospheres they'll encounter in conference play.

"It gives us a real good early season look at ourselves, a great way for us to evaluate what we're going to have to do to compete for a national championship when the chips are down," said 15 year coach G. Guerrieri. "It's a final-four level of competition."

The Aggies were the only team to defeat North Carolina last season. In fact, after dropping the season opener 1-0 in overtime in front of a NCAA regular season record-setting crowd of 8,204, North Carolina did not lose another game on their way to its 19th national championship.

North Carolina repaid the favor later in the season eliminating the Aggies in the Elite Eight. The Aggies return 11 starters and 15 letter winners from the 2006 squad that walked off UNC's Fetzer Field with unfinished business.

The Aggies went into the half up 1-0 and held a 4-1 shot advantage. It was the first time in the history of the North Carolina program that an opponent held the storied Tar Heel team to one shot in a half. North Carolina came back twice during the second half to win the game 3-2. When asked to describe the game Coach G said, "It was a back and forth affair. End to end. Hard, controlled, passionate. It really was a smoking game."

The Aggies will try to do what only 7 teams in the history of the North Carolina program have done; beat the Tar Heels at home. As if that wasn't intimidating enough, North Carolina is coming off the program's first ever season opening loss to an unranked South Carolina team.

"We're going to go in and play a wounded animal with them having stumbled in their first weekend," Guerrieri said. "You can bet that they will be absolutely focused."

This weekend the Aggies will have to play more focused and finish more chances than they did in their two warm-up matches. The Aggies will need solid play from midfielders Laura Grace Robinson, Amy Berend, Paige Carmichael, and Amber Gnatzig in order to maintain possession. The defense of Micha Stevens and the possible return of Emily Peterson will have a huge impact on the North Carolina offense. Senior All-American Ashlee Pistorius has another chance to make history like she did when she scored the game winner over UNC in last season's opener.

North Carolina returns 20 letter winners from last year's team along with nine freshmen and a junior transfer. The two main losses from last years team are senior forwards Heather O'Reilly and Elizabeth Guess.

"We've got to be opportunistic. We've got to be able to keep (North Carolina) and their strengths in check. We've got to be able to keep our players connected and not getting caught one versus one against Carolina's talent," Guerrieri said.

Luckily, the majority of the A&M team (eight seniors, three juniors and five sophomores) remember walking off of Fetzer Field one win away from the Aggie's first final four.

The Aggies have additional motivation for getting to their first Final Four this year.

For the second time Aggieland will be hosting the Women's College Cup on December 7th and 9th. With two wins this weekend, A&M's RPI will be positively impacted which can help solidify a high seed. If A&M can secure a top four seed they can be guaranteed home field advantage throughout the tournament and into the College Cup.

It all begins this weekend.

• This could be the only time in the history of the Tar Heel program that an opponent comes in to play them at home with a higher ranking. (UNC does not list the rankings of their opponents in historical information on their website.)
• North Carolina averaged 1,888 fans for each of its home games while A&M averaged 3,360. (2006 Season)
• Before losing to South Carolina last weekend North Carolina was on a 27-match winning streak dating back to the 2006 season when the Tar Heels lost their season opener in overtime to Texas A&M.
• This Aggies eight-member senior class was ranked as the number one recruiting class when they entered as freshman in 2004.
• Senior All-American Ashlee Pistorius played sparingly in the season ending match against UNC last year due to a blow to the head.
• Former UNC forward Heather O'Reilly is now in the final tune-up stages with the Women's National team before the Women's World Cup in China later this month.
• North Carolina will be without senior defender Robyn Gayle who will be playing with the Canadian National team at the Women's World Cup.

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