The lights will be bright on Friday night in College Station when Texas and Texas A&M face off in soccer for the first time since 2011.
The Longhorns and Aggies were paired together in the first round of the NCAA tournament, with the match taking place 6:30 p.m. Friday at Ellis Field. It will be their first meeting since A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC, and the first time Texas will face its old rival since Angela Kelly took over the program the following season.
“It’s huge,” Kelly said. “It’s a huge rivalry in college sports, and historically how competitive it’s been in every single sport and the battle that’s gone on. We haven’t played A&M since I arrived on the 40 Acres, so I didn’t get to share in any of that rivalry but I certainly know the wealth of tradition between the two institutions.”
The 64-team field was revealed Monday afternoon via a live selection show, and Texas (11-7-1) had to sweat it out until the very end after losing in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Even so, Kelly was confident her team’s name would show up.
“As you would imagine, I studied everybody’s resumes and historical references,” she said. “We had two top 20 wins and a top 10 win. I felt good about our body of work.”
Texas is making its third-straight appearance in the tournament, the first time that has been accomplished since the Longhorns made it eight years in a row from 2001-08. It is the program’s fourth NCAA appearance since Kelly took over.
A difficult early-season schedule left Texas with four non-conference losses, but the Longhorns also picked up a crucial win over Washington, a team that finished No. 19 in the final RPI rankings. The Longhorns also won at Kansas, which landed at No. 9.
The Longhorns are led by the trio of Haley Berg (8 goals, 9 assists), Julia Grosso (8 goals, 7 assists) and Cyera Hintzen (5 goals, 4 assists).
Texas had the third-best record in the Big 12 at 6-3, but lost in penalty kicks to TCU at the conference tournament. Six of the 10 teams in the conference (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas, Texas, West Virginia and TCU) made the NCAA field.
“We’re certainly battle tested,” Kelly said.
Only the top four teams in each region are seeded, with first-round matches taking place on campus sites. The winner between Texas and Texas A&M will move on to face either No. 3 seed USC or California State Fullerton. The Trojans feature Austin native Olufolasade Adamolekun, who played for Jamaica at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
The Longhorns are led by All-Big 12 first team selection Julia Grosso (8 goals, 7 assists) and second team honorees Haley Berg, Cyera Hintzen and Emma Regan. Sydney Nobles landed on the conference all-freshman team.