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Aggies Advance On Penalty Kicks
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SAN ANTONIO - Merritt Mathias hammered home the deciding penalty kick as top-seeded Texas A&M was handcuffed by eighth-seeded Colorado in a scoreless game before winning a Big 12 Conference Soccer opening-round game 5-4 on penalty kicks Wednesday night.

Though the game ended scoreless, each team made its penalty kicks until Texas A&M's Kelly Dyer saved a shot by Taryn Vitacca on the Buffaloes' fifth try. Dyer only came into the game for the penalty round after Kristin Arnold played in goal through regulation and the overtimes for the Aggies (16-3-1, 8-1-1), ranked sixth nationally.

"I just pick a side and go, and I just stretched and saved it (Vitacca's kick)," Dyer said. "It kind of still was behind my hand, and I grabbed it. There were two other ones that went just right underneath me. It made my team a little nervous."

Though they were seeded at the bottom of the bracket, it made sense the Buffaloes (8-10-2, 4-5-1) gave the Aggies a battle. CU owned a road victory over the TAMU,  defeating them 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 24 at College Station. It was the conference opener for both schools, and the Aggies went on to win eight of their remaining nine -- they tied the other.

"I don't know how they're the No. 8 seed, because they're a very good team," Aggies coach G. Guerrieri said. "They're darn hard to play against."

The Aggies will play Oklahoma in a semifinal match on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The fourth-seeded Sooners defeated fifth-seed Texas 1-0 on Wednesday.

Neither Texas A&M or Colorado mustered much offense. The Aggies averaged 21 shots per game this season, yet they managed 16 shots prior to starting the penalty kicks. Colorado averaged just less than 15 shots per game and missed that season average with 14 on Wednesday night.

"Our part of the battle with them is that they're an emotionally charged group, and we met that part of the challenge," Colorado coach Bill Hempen said. "I thought we played pretty good. We just couldn't find the net. We were in their end plenty. It was just a matter of finding that opening."

Play on Wednesday was conducted in blustery conditions, and the Aggies used a north wind that blew mostly at their backs to take a 10-4 edge in shots in the first half. Though three of A&M's shots made it on goal and none for Colorado, there was no score at halftime.

The Aggies were able to keep up the pressure when they went the other direction in the second half. Alyssa Mautz came away with a steal in the Colorado zone 11 minutes after halftime and advanced the ball to Whitney Hooper, whose quick shot sailed high from about 25 yards. The Aggies got loose in scoring position four minutes later when Nora Skelton's ball handling and pass got Mautz 18 feet away where she missed.

Colorado had its best chance when midfielder Kate Russell launched a free kick that Arnold grabbed near the line with a little more than nine minutes to go.

"Kristin had one heck of a game, for sure," Dyer said of her fellow keeper.

A minute later Beth West advanced the ball up the left side for the Aggies and fired a shot that went over Colorado goalkeeper Annie Brunner's outstretched hand and bounced off the crossbar back into play.

From the three first-half shots that the Aggies got back to the goal, there was one that Brunner could not get to. That was the kick defender Mary Grace Schmidt launched from about 30 yards that glanced off the crossbar 23 minutes into the game. It was a high-arc shot that Brunner had to reach for when a Colorado defender deflected it shortly after Schmidt put the foot to it following a corner kick sent into play by Rachel Shipley.

Brunner was sharp three minutes later on a shot drilled by midfielder Raven Tatum from close to 30 yards out. Brunner dived right to make the stop and kept her grip on the ball.

With time running out while the wind still was behind them, the Aggies managed two more scoring opportunities. Mautz drove a ball high from close to 25 yards out and, with just 1:47 before halftime, Christina Navalta got to 15 yards away but dribbled a shot wide.

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