COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Two goals by freshman striker Summer Clarke and a season-high 13 saves by senior goalkeeper Megan Kinneman were not enough as the LSU Soccer team dropped a 3-2 decision to the 23rd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies in its regular-season finale for 2013 played Thursday night at Ellis Field in College Station, Texas.
The Tigers (9-8-2, 5-5-1 SEC) suffered their fifth defeat on the spin in Southeastern Conference play while locking up the No. 7 seed in the 2013 SEC Women’s Soccer Tournament to be held next week.
This marks the eighth time in nine seasons under head coach Brian Lee that the Tigers will compete at the SEC Tournament as they take on No. 10 seed Auburn in the opening round on Monday at 4 p.m. CT.
With the win, the Aggies (14-4-1, 9-2) clinched a share of this year’s SEC Championship with the defending champion Florida Gators as they will compete as the No. 2 seed at the 2013 SEC Women’s Soccer Tournament that will be held Nov. 4-10 at the Orange Beach Sportsplex. Florida is the No. 1 seed after winning the head-to-head matchup with a 3-0 shutout on Oct. 27.
The Aggies took the lead on 14 minutes off their first corner kick of the match when Kelley Monogue’s service from the left corner flag was redirected into the back of the net by All-SEC striker Shea Groom from about six yards in front of goal for her team-leading 12th goal of the season. Groom’s goal gave the home side an early 1-0 lead at the 13:09 mark of the first half.
The Aggies threatened to double its lead before the break when right back Karlie Mueller dribbled deep into Texas A&M’s attacking third. Mueller pulled up near the top of the area and had a curling right-footed strike that seemed destined for the top-right corner of the net, but LSU’s senior goalkeeper Megan Kinneman made a fingertip save diving to her left to play the ball out for a corner kick.
Kinneman nearly matched her season-high for saves in the first half as she stopped eight shots by the Aggies in the first 45 minutes to keep the Tigers within striking distance heading into the break.
Kinneman added five saves in the second half to finish the match with a season-best 13 saves against the Aggies, marking her highest total since setting a career single-game high of 15 saves in a 2-2 draw at Georgia on Sept. 30 of last season. She also raised her school record to 277 saves for her collegiate career over the past four seasons.
Texas A&M would double its lead in the 56th minute following a free kick by the Tigers in their own penalty box as Groom controlled possession in midfield and played the ball up to left back Allie Bailey running through LSU’s back line. Bailey dribbled into the area and fired a low-lining strike inside the left post from 14 yards out to make it 2-0.
But the Tigers struck back just 16 seconds after the ensuing kickoff as the freshman duo of Emma Fletcher and Summer Clarke combined once again to pull one back for the visitors. Fletcher made a quick run into LSU’s attacking third before playing Clarke through for a strike in the left side of the penalty area that found the back of the net to pull LSU to within 2-1 at the 55:49 mark.
Fletcher continues to prove herself as the SEC’s top assist maker in 2013 after serving up her 12th assist of the season and eight assist in league play to top the SEC scoring charts.
Just when it looked like the Aggies might have put the game out of reach with a goal by Annie Kunz to push their lead to 3-1 in the 65th minute, Clarke scored her second goal of the game and 10th goal for the year in the 74th minute when she buried the rebound from eight yards when Texas A&M goalkeeper Jordan Day couldn’t handle the initial shot from the left side by Tiger senior Nina Anderson.
With two goals on the night, Clarke became the first LSU Tiger in two seasons to score 10 goals since former All-SEC striker Taryne Boudreau ended the 2011 season with a team-leading 12 goals.
The Tigers were unable to equalize over the final 16 minutes of the contest while suffering a 3-2 defeat in their sixth match against a nationally-ranked opponent during the 2013 season. The Aggies remained unbeaten in four matches all-time in the series with a 3-0-1 mark dating back to the first meeting between the two sides during the 2009 season.