ORANGE BEACH, Alabama - The No. 2 seed Texas A&M Aggies got a golden goal in the 97th minute to beat the No. 3 seed Florida Gators in an SEC Tournament semifinal match, 2-1, Thursday evening at Orange Beach Sportsplex.
The victory was the 12th consecutive win for the Maroon & White, one shy of the school record. The triumph propels the Aggies' to their fourth SEC Tournament championship match in their six seasons in the league. Texas A&M will face the Arkansas Razorbacks for the crown Sunday afternoon at 2:05 p.m.
The game-winning score was an own goal. Texas A&M played a corner kick to Kendall Ritchie who was settled in 30 yards out above the left corner of the penalty box. She sent a service toward Cienna Arrieta left of the penalty spot, but Florida's Sara Wilson interceded and attempted to thrust a header out of danger over the crossbar. Her attempt went awry and the Aggies celebrated the game winner as the ball cascaded down the back netting.
Texas A&M (16-2-1) scored the equalizer in the 69th minute with Rheagen Smith notching her first career goal on her birthday. Ritchie was again the catalyst on the goal. Looking to clear the ball from 35 yards off the defensive end line, Ritchie threaded a boomer between two defenders. Smith sprinted by the two Gators as they collided, collected the ball 30 yards out and raced towards a one-on-one opportunity with the keeper. Smith fired from 17 yards out, beating Kaylan Marckese to the right for the goal.
For the match, Texas A&M had the advantage in shots (12-7) and shots-on-goal (6-1), but Florida held a 5-4 edge in corner kicks.
Although the Aggies owned the majority of the midfield play in the first half and had more chances on the offensive end, Florida (14-6-0) was able to get a goal from distance to take a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
After Texas A&M was unable to clear the ball, Sarah Troccoli was able to gather the ball and find a shooting lane from 22 yards out right of the penalty arc. She sent a shot left of the keeper into the side netting for the ice breaker in the 30th minute.
Texas A&M owned the offensive numbers in the first half with a 5-2 edge in shots and a 2-0 margin in corner kicks.