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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Sophomore LHP Shane Sdao (38) reacts after a strikeout during Texas A&Ms game against Texas at Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

‘G’ is for goals

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Carolyn Calzada (16) kicks the ball down the field on Aug. 11 at Ellis Field during Texas A&M exhibition game against SFA.

The Texas A&M soccer team has had many triumphs over the years. Three SEC championships, three SEC regular season championships, seven Big 12 regular season championships, five Big 12 tournament championships and numerous NCAA tournament appearances highlight the success of the team. All cards were stacked in the Aggies’ favor. However, following the worst season in program history, a new outlook on the game and strategy quickly became a priority. 

“Last season was difficult for our players and coaching staff as it was the first losing season I’ve ever had,” A&M head coach G Guerrieri said. “There was a lot of factors that went into that, like having all seven of our forwards not available to play because of injury and illness. It could limit your team just a little bit.”

One of those players happened to be the team’s leading scorer, sophomore forward Maile Hayes, who logged six goals before her injury. 

“Sadly, I had to deal with a lot of injuries, and I think that’s just the type of player I am,” Hayes said. “I go really hard, so that comes with the game.”

Due to the amount of injuries on the team, there was a sense of urgency and newfound importance surrounding the team’s health. 

“Health is our most important issue because health is what we didn’t have last year,” Guerrieri said. “We lost so many players in opportune times against a really good schedule. We can’t go to the transfer wire and bring in another player in the middle of the season, and we can’t go sign a free agent.”

Despite the injuries, it allowed other longtime leaders, like graduate defender Karlina Sample, a chance to step up to encourage the team throughout the difficult season. 

“I think I’ll use my experience to be more real and give more tough love this year, just in terms of how we fell off last year and how everyone is looking at us now in the SEC,” Sample said. “We’ll use that chip on our shoulder, and the experience that I have, because we do have a fairly young team to our best advantage to encourage, to support and to bring confidence where it’s needed.” 

In addition to Sample, senior defender Katie Smith is set to be another major leader on the team in the back of the field. 

“Katie [Smith] and Karlina [Sample] are both natural leaders,” Guerrieri said. “They lead in different ways, and one way is not wrong; they’re both good at being themselves and leading in a way that the rest of their teammates respond to. The fact that they’re both in the back with [senior goalkeeper] Kenna Caldwell, I think there’s stability that comes from the back of the team going forward, and knowing that we got these players behind us means players feel they can take more risks because they’re there.”

Leadership played a big role in the spring campaign, which for the first time since 2020 was a valuable time for growth and development for the squad going into the fall season. 

“During the spring, the team focused on a lot of possession because last year it was hard to find our rhythm throughout the game,” Hayes said. “Another main thing was pressuring the ball right after we lose it. Not taking a deep breath, but right when we lose it, we go straight to the ball as a team, collectively, and not just one person doing the work.”

According to Guerrieri, the fact that the spring was a time to focus solely on getting better helped the team feel more prepared than past years. 

“This past spring, we were able to focus on individual[s] and focus on layering in different aspects of the way we want to play this fall,” Guerrieri said. “All but two of our players were already here because we had four of our freshmen step in and graduate early to be a part of what we’re doing in the spring.”

One of those freshmen who joined the squad in the offseason was freshman midfielder and Colleyville native Georgia Leb, who felt the spring was a time to go back to the basics. 

“In the spring, we were going off what last season was,” Leb said. “It was pretty strict, and I felt like we really focused on what we didn’t do well last season. As a freshman, I felt like we really tried to go back to the basics of making sure we’re all wearing the right clothing and making sure we’re on time or early. We were putting in the extra work. I think I really noticed that we were focusing on doing the little things well.”

Despite the upsetting season, it didn’t waver the freshman when thinking about committing. 

“Even though they didn’t have their best season, I knew that the program was still a really good one and that the coaches have really good experience,” Leb said. “Even though it didn’t work out that season, we have good players on the team. I figured it’s just one bad season.” 

Hopes are high for the Aggies as they continue to look forward and only look back as needed to improve for the fall. 

“I’m going to use that feeling and disappointment to fuel my excitement and the team’s excitement for this year,” Sample said. “I think we’re all recognizing that we’re way better than how we performed last year and using that as motivation. I love being an underdog and people doubting me just because I love being able to prove them wrong.” 

For fans following the team, last season shouldn’t define the attitude of the team or bring up whether or not the team will fight this fall to improve. 

“I think everyone who’s followed our program knows of the lightning bolts we had to deal with last year and they’re one-off,” Guerreri said. “We will still have the best gameday atmosphere in the country, and we have a team that’s hungry and focused on winning. We’ll be one of the favorites to win the SEC and one of the favorites to be vying for a national championship. I hope that people understand that coming to Ellis Field, it’s a participation sport. It’s one of the things that we want the 12th Man to be involved in helping us to win another championship.”

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