Earlier this season in an interview with Our Game Magazine, the tiny UC Irvine goalkeeper, Jennifer Randazzo, described her experience of being in College Station to play Texas A&M during a weekend tournament back on August 21st.
At 5 foot 4 inches tall and starting as a freshman in only her second collegiate game ever, Randazzo, a San Jose, Calif. native, was astounded by the atmosphere at College Station. “I was a little bit nervous because we saw them (the Aggies) play the day before and the fans were crazy. They were talking to the players, especially the keeper, on the other team the whole game.” Randazzo, a 3 time State Champion with her club team back in California, ended up shutting out A&M in a 1-0 victory, making seven saves in the process. Speaking about the experience later, Randazzo added “I have never been in such a competitive match before.”
That’s pretty much what the Longhorns experience every time they play the Aggies. When “maroon red” meets “burnt orange,” it’s just all out warfare.
From 1994, when Texas Soccer first started playing the Aggies intercollegiately, all the way up to 2003, the Aggies won every single game. That was twelve games in a row over a span of ten years. Then on Halloween night in 2003, in Austin, the Horns finally got justice when the scrappy Kati McBain, complete with eyeblack on her face like war paint, knocked in an equalizer with just minutes left in regulation to set up a double overtime victory a dozen minutes later. The soccer curse had been lifted and the Horns faithful tumbled out of the stands decked in their Halloween costumes to celebrate the win. The Longhorns were able to send their seniors off that night in glory.
Texas dropped the next two games to the Aggies the following year, but then won the traditional October grudge matches in Austin both in 2005 and 2006.
At the end of the regular season in 2007, the Horns would suffer a bitter October defeat in College Station during a game which produced 28 fouls, 5 yellow cards, and an ejection. Texas went down by a final score of 2-0, with the second goal coming from a penalty kick awarded to A&M after Texas keeper Dianna Pfenninger collided aggressively with Aggie midfielder Melissa Garey in the 72nd minute. Pfenninger got the worst of the encounter and had to be helped off the field straight to a hospital where she received stitches. Six days earlier the Longhorns had received the news that they were ranked number one in the nation for the first time in program history. The October A&M game put an end to that, and the Horns haven’t been back at the top again since.
On November 11, 2007, thirty days after the brutal slugfest in College Station, the Horns met the Aggies again, this time in the Big 12 Championship in San Antonio. The Longhorns got on the board just a minute into the game via a header goal by Emily Anderson off a corner kick by Courtney Gaines. Texas went on to win the game 2-1 and garnered their second Big 12 Tournament Championship in program history.
The following day, the Longhorns learned they would be playing BYU in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The only problem, though, was that the NCAA organizers had seeded them second and had given A&M the number one seed, this after the Horns had beaten A&M to win the Big 12 Tournament. The opening rounds would be played in College Station, and if Texas advanced past BYU, they’d have to face A&M again in enemy territory.
Texas beat BYU off of two goals by freshman Alisha Ortiz, while Dianna Pfenninger recorded nine saves to shutout the Brigham Young side. In a post-game interview, Kasey Moore revealed how the team felt about being in College Station. “We weren’t expecting to come here and so we were a little shocked to come here,” Kasey said. “We talked about it as a team and realized this is the seed we were given. This is where we are going to go. There’s nothing we can do to change it so we just put it behind us.”
A&M took down Stephen F. Austin that night in their first round match and the Horns would face the Aggies once again in College Station for their third match of the year.
The start of the game was delayed for an hour on a stormy day on November 17, 2007, while rain and hail pelted the field in College Station. A crowd of 2,500 huddled under ponchos and umbrellas in the stands and around the field. When play finally got underway, A&M applied pressure early getting off eight shots in the first twenty minutes. At 22:31, a ball deflected off of Kasey Moore and went in for an own goal in the Texas end. The half ended with the Horns down 0-1. A&M had taken ten shots to Texas’ four. Things looked bleak.
At halftime Kasey was visibly upset about the own goal. Senior Kelsey Carpenter pulled Kasey aside and told her to forget about it. “We’re not losing this game to end the seniors’ careers in College Station, Texas. That is not happening.”
The Texas seniors Kelsey Carpenter, Caitlin Kennedy, Greta Carter, and Leslie Imber had all grown up playing on club and ODP teams with each other. Coincidentally they’d also played with all the A&M seniors on those same teams. The Texas seniors made a decision there in the locker room that there was no way they were letting their former comrades, Sara Albrecht, Melissa Garey, and Amy Berend of the A&M squad beat them there on that field. It just wasn’t going to happen.
Kelsey Carpenter, reflecting back said, “There was so much just for our class riding on that game.”
Texas came out in the second half and freshman Erica Campanelli got the equalizer in the 54th minute off a corner kick from senior Courtney Gaines. Campanelli, a smaller player who was quiet and shy off the field, was known to experience a major personality change once a game started. After play got underway, the otherwise shy Campanelli would suddenly transform into a scrappy fighter, kicking the crap out of girls left and right, sometimes cursing like a truck driver. Campanelli had fought through the crowd in the box and headed the ball into the A&M net to tie the match at one apiece.
In the 72nd minute, Texas midfielder Caitlin Kennedy broke through and banged a ball just off the inside of A&M’s left post to score the second goal for Texas and now give the Longhorns the lead. Six minutes later she sent a ball up to Kelsey Carpenter who banged home Texas’ third goal to put the Horns up 3-1. Speaking about it later, Kelsey said, “It was unreal. There aren’t words to describe that moment.”
In the 83rd minute, A&M’s Sara Albrecht fired a cannon shot from forty yards out that went in to bring the Aggies to within one. The last seven minutes were a flurry of offense by the Aggies, desperate for the equalizer.
Dianna Pfenninger recalled, “A&M kept the pressure up, bombarding our defense with crosses from the outside. I recall coming out to punch one of those balls, and looking for a call from the referee when my feet were taken out from underneath me, but to no avail.”
Texas held on to stun the A&M crowd by beating the Aggies for the second time in just six days. It was a colossal win for the program and a devastating loss for the Aggies. A&M Coach G Guerrieri called it the most difficult loss of his entire career.
Texas had put up with far too many A&M victories over the previous decade and a half, and on that stormy afternoon in College Station, they drew the line. No way Texas was going to let A&M get a win. No way. Texas overcame the adversity of being down at the half and the hostility of a highly partisan crowd to notch their greatest win.
Dianna Pfenninger: “Our assistant coach, Matt Mott, started our post-game chant, ‘We shocked the world.’”