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The Battalion

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

The Battalion

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Texas A&M to take on North Carolina in Elite 8 matchup

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Photo by Abbey Santoro

Sophomore defender Katie Smith said the Aggies have upped the intensity of their practices ahead of their Elite 8 matchup with North Carolina. 

No. 11 Texas A&M soccer is looking to upset the second-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels Sunday in the fourth round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Aggies enter the competition with a 12-3-1 record on the season, and the Tar Heels hold a 17-1 resume. The quarterfinal matchup is the highest-ranked game seen yet in this year’s tournament, with both teams being seeded within the top seven.
With everything on the line, A&M coach G Guerrieri said this is the Aggies’ most important game yet.
“Every game now is its own little season in itself,” Guerrieri said. “If we don’t win, we’re done, so we may as well put everything into it as we possibly can.”
One main difficulty in overcoming North Carolina is its defense, Guerrieri said. So far in the tournament, 19 shots have been taken against North Carolina. Of these, not a single ball has found the back of the net, as no team has managed to score a goal on the Tar Heels in this year’s bracket competition. Guerrieri said he plans on his team being the group to break this streak.
“They’re one of the most athletic teams in the country,” Guerrieri said. “You can’t help but respect that. How we can penetrate and get behind them to score is one of the things we’ve got to be able to deal with.”
For the maroon and white, this preparation has included refining the team’s mental game. A&M sophomore defender Katie Smith said this included sacrificing comfort for strength and vigour while further honing their skills.
“We’re putting all of our effort into everything we do,” Smith said. “Practices have been super intense. It’s just a ‘go out and do your best’ kind of thing with this team.”
With this “intensity-focused mindset” in place, Guerrieri said his players are ready to go on the offensive against the Tar Heels and make them scramble to defend.
“The best defense is a strong attack,” Guerrieri said. “If we can make people have to defend us, instead of us being on the defensive stance, then it goes back to what we’ve always believed. This is a big, big challenge for us.”
The Aggies are coming into the game after an intense battle with the Oklahoma State Cowgirls which went into penalty kicks. North Carolina, on the other hand, secured its spot in the Elite 8 by shutting out Washington in the third round.
The last time the two squads faced each other, the maroon and white came out on top 1-0 to knock the Tar Heels out of the NCAA Tournament’s second round in November 2015. This was the earliest round in which any team had ever defeated North Carolina in the bracket. With a precedent in place, Guerrieri said he knows his team can win again.
“It shows that it can be done,” Guerrieri said. “Women in these uniforms have done it in the past. It’s all eyes on what we have to do now.”
The quarterfinal matchup will kick off Sunday, May 9, at noon. Hosted at Wakemed Soccer Park (Field 4) in Cary, N.C., Guerrieri said the home crowd will likely favor the Tar Heels. In his mind, this just sets up the Aggies for even greater success, he said.
“Why wouldn’t we want to put ourselves up against the best?” Guerrieri said. “It just makes any success that you have that much better.”

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