Soccer Buffs Shock No. 11 Aggies in Big 12 Semifinals
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - The No. 23 University of Colorado women's soccer team scored a stunning come-from-behind 3-2 double overtime victory over No. 11 Texas A&M here in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Friday night.
The Buffaloes became the fourth team not seeded in the top four in the Big 12 Tournament to advance to the championship game in the 11 year history of the tournament by way of the biggest comeback in school history and the second come from behind win of CU's season.
"It feels like I'd hoped it would. My kids are excited, I'm excited for them," said Colorado head coach Bill Hempen. "But will that adrenaline get them through another 90 minutes against another very good team, we'll find out. A great win, but as far as the championship game, we'll find out what we have left. This is a game of attrition. That was a great college soccer game for the fans."
Colorado went down 2-0 early. The Aggies got on the board just 6:15 into the first half. Junior Ashlee Pistorius took a through ball up the left side and was able to get by freshman Kelly Ross. CU goalkeeper Kirstin Radlinski came off her line to try and cut off her angle but Pistorius cut back and shot on the open net to make it 1-0.
They would get a second goal at the 11:52 mark when Nicole Ketchum flicked the ball back and when Radlinski and junior Brittany Dornseif went out to clear it, Pistorius came through and got a foot on it to hit a one touch volley to make it 2-0.
CU rallied at that point, but the Buffs were unable to finish any of their chances. Nikki Marshall hit the post once in the first half and A&M's Kristin Arnold was able to get a foot on the and clear out Marshall's rebound effort. Colorado outshot the Aggies in the first half 11-7 but did not have anything on the scoresheet to show for it.
At halftime, Hempen let his team know what it was going to take to overcome the Aggies.
"I'm not much of a yeller, but I had to get into them at halftime because we were reliving the same script that we presented to us the last time we played them," said Hempen. "We had chances in the first half we didn't finish, and we were down 2-0, and not really confident. They came out and they responded."
As a result, the second half was an entirely different story for the Buffs. Colorado got down the field and earned a hard fought set piece in the Texas A&M end of the field. Allie True hit a hard shot on the ground that got through the Aggie wall and squirted out on the other side. There was chaos in front of the net, but Dornseif saw the ball on the ground and slid through and buried the ball into the back of the net to cut the score to 2-1. It was Dornseif's first career goal, and came on the heels of her scoring CU's fifth penalty kick to secure the shootout win over Kansas on Wednesday. It came at the 48:50 mark, just 3:50 into the second half.
The Buffaloes continued to stampede back, getting several chances throughout the half. The hard work finally paid off when the Buffs earned another free kick deep in the Aggie half. True again took the free kick, which the Aggie defense tried to clear. The ball rolled to Laura Munnelly who threw a spin move to turn the Aggie forward giving chase all the way around and she was able to face back to the goal 25 yards out. She ripped a shot which hit the cross bar, and the ball bounced to Nikki Keller who headed it down in front of Nikki Marshall. Marshall teed off and blasted the game-tying goal into the net with just 3:30 left in the game.
"Bill kind of lit a fire under us and we knew that we had to come out hard or we were going to lose," said Munnelly. "After we scored that first goal we knew it was our game to win and we were back in it."
Colorado finished regulation with a decisive edge in shots, getting off 21 shots to A&M's nine. The Buffs also had three corner kicks to the Aggies' two, with Radlinski and Arnold each pulled in four saves.
The teams battled through the first 10 minute overtime with Colorado getting just one legitimate scoring chance. So they would go to two overtimes for the second straight year. Last year the Aggies scored the game-winner early in the second overtime, but the story would not be the same on Friday.
Allie True found Marshall in the middle of the last third of the field. Marshall took four touches and found Alex Cousins making an overlapping run to the left, and laid it off to her but it was a little wide. Cousins managed to get to the ball before A&M's Arnold, and slotted it back to Marshall who was 12 yards out from the Aggie goal. Marshall turned and hit a one-timer low and to the right to give CU its first win over Texas A&M in 16 tries and CU's second-straight trip to the Big 12 Tournament Championship game, 6:03 into the second overtime. It was also her sixth game-winning goal, a new school record, her ninth such record of the season.
"That's the biggest goal I've ever scored, for sure," said Marshall. "For the team it was big, but for also for me personally it was huge. I really doubted myself after the Kansas game and I've not been feeling that confident. After the game I was excited, and then Katie (Griffin) found me and she just said, 'That's why you are freshman of the year,' and at that point I felt higher than I ever have. She told me that I better not ever doubt myself again.
"But we've only won a semifinal, we haven't won a championship yet, so there's more work to do."
"It's a great feeling to beat them after four years of trying," said Munnelly. "We won it for each other and for the CU soccer program. But now we have a little more redemption to go for again. Texas came to Boulder and they beat us, and now we need to beat them to win a championship. It will be a good game. They are a very good team and we have a lot of respect for them."
Texas took the team's meeting in Boulder by a score of 2-1, doing so in come from behind fashion after Nikki Marshall staked the Buffs to a 1-0 lead, UT came back with a pair of goals before halftime to beat CU on Oct. 8. They are currently ranked No. 7 in the nation and are 17-3-1 on the year. Their only losses this season were to Oklahoma State, Rice and Auburn.
The Big 12 Championship game will get underway on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. MST at the Blossom Soccer Complex. It will be televised via tape delay on Fox Sports Net. Check your local listings.