ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - The only goal of Friday's first SEC semifinal game didn't come until the 87th minute, but it was enough to send top-seeded Texas A&M to their second straight SEC championship game. The Aggies defeated fifth-seeded South Carolina 1-0 in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Soccer Tournament at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.
With 3:18 left on the clock, Texas A&M senior Bianca Brinson scored on a header off of a corner kick from Kelley Monogue.
"It was a great, great serve from Kelley Monogue, who has been doing that her entire career," Texas A&M head coach G Guerrieri said. "Without Janae Cousineau and without Annie Kunz in the game for us - those are two of our taller players - Brinson really timed it well. Her role in that particular one was to seal the back post and she got in there and made sure it was there. It was a brilliant, brilliant serve and really unstoppable for their goalkeeper."
In the scoreless first half, there were only eight shots between both teams, with very few clear-cut scoring chances. The Gamecocks came out firing at the start of the second half, with shots from Chelsea Drennan and Savannah McCaskill in the first minute. South Carolina outshot the Aggies 10-8 in the match.
South Carolina's physical play disrupted A&M's offense, but the Aggies were able to regain their rhythm late in the game, almost scoring in the 86th minute on a shot by Shea Groom, which was deflected by South Carolina goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo. The deflection gave the Aggies a corner kick, which led to Brinson's game-winning header.
Texas A&M (17-2-2) advances to face the winner between third-seeded Kentucky and tenth-seeded Tennessee in Sunday's championship match at 2:00 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
"If I haven't said how much I love being in the SEC, let me say it one more time," Guerrieri said. "For all of Texas A&M, it has just been a wonderful ride. Being a part of this conference is huge, so to be able to play for another championship on Sunday at the beach, it's a pretty good deal. Whether it's Tennessee or Kentucky, we know that we'll have our hands full. These are two teams that are playing really well right now. They may be the two hottest teams besides us in the conference. It will be a great game."
This is the third consecutive season that Texas A&M has eliminated South Carolina from the SEC Tournament. The Aggies won a quarterfinal match, 1-0 in overtime, in 2012 and a semifinal match, 2-1, in 2013. South Carolina drops to 13-5-3 with the loss.
"I'm proud of the girls," South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. "Obviously, we're disappointed in the result. We wanted to make the finals and put ourselves in a position to win a championship. The heart you saw with this team and the fight, and we played a tremendous team in Texas A&M. They showed how strong they are. I thought we battled. We didn't have the best first half, but we came back and really did well the second half to put ourselves in a position to win the game. We just didn't find the net on a couple of opportunities but, overall, I thought we played very well. We'll build off of this going into NCAAs next week."