The Texas A&M soccer team’s 3-2 loss at Rice on March 15 brought on the realization that things were not quite the same as before.
COVID-19 split the Division I soccer schedule in half, it started in the fall and will end in the spring. The move into the spring also cost A&M’s key offensive players Addie McCain and Jimena Lopez who left for professional careers.
“I feel like that was a big hit to the team. We’ve got to step it up,” forward Barbara Olivieri said. “We’ve got to play how we play and after that, the confidence level has gone up and there is a good energy right now on the team.”
The Aggies will see the first fruits of this season on Monday as the NCAA tournament field is released. With an RPI ranking of four, A&M has the expectation of a long postseason run in North Carolina, site of all tournament matches.
The Aggies are 11-3, including 4-1 in the spring. Topping the resume are victories over then No. 15 Florida, No. 15 Auburn and a 1-0 victory over No. 3 TCU on April 10.
“I think the win over TCU was the exclamation point,” A&M head coach G. Guerrieri said.
Ranked a place above the Aggies in RPI is Arkansas, which shared the Southeastern Conference regular-season title with A&M in the fall. Guerrieri said another milestone was the Aggies six straight wins after dropping a 2-1 contest at Arkansas.
“Winning the SEC in the fall was a great accomplishment, especially after we lost at Arkansas in our second game of the season,” he said. “We talked to the players and said, ‘Listen, for us to win this league, we have to win out. We have to win the next six games. There can’t be any draws. We have to put our foot on the gas and go.’ And they did. They responded and were fantastic.”
It was the same mentality headed into the season-finale against TCU, the highest-ranked team the Aggies faced. Guerrieri said the win might have been worth two because he believes it will ensure the Aggies a bye through the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“That put even more importance on that game and the players responded and they were clicking on all cylinders,” he said.
The difference in the game was a 57-minute goal by Lauren Geczik, assisted by Macie Kolb and Olivieri. Olivieri, a true freshman, has had the most immediate impact this season. She leads A&M in goals with six and assists with four, playing multiple positions in the two segments. Olivieri has helped fill the void of McCain and Lopez, who accounted for eight goals and six assists in the fall. Geczik’s first months in college were spent as an attacking center midfielder. After the departure of McCain, she moved forward to lead the line. The Katy native said the time spent at the No. 10 position gave her a few extra seconds of control to get the hang of the faster pace. Now she can be more effective when space and time are at a premium.
“Both positions are close, but they’re really different in a lot of ways,” Geczik said. “I feel like playing one helps with the other and vice versa.”