There is a certain irony in goalkeeper Cosette Morche's reason to transfer to Texas A&M from Louisiana-Lafayette.
In her two seasons at ULL, Morche had to make more than twice as many saves as she has as an Aggie, yet the senior says her desire for a bigger challenge instigated the move to A&M.
"Every time I step on the field I want to get better, and I feel like I wasn't getting better and maybe even not progressing at all," Morche said. "I didn't feel confident in myself anymore. In Louisiana I had a lot of saves which gave me confidence, but when it came to training, I didn't have it. I knew at my old school it's a lower level, so I thought I'd be fine, but I knew if I wanted to get to a higher level then I needed to be trained more, and I knew I had the potential because I love working hard and I wanted it more than anything."
Morche started 30 matches with ULL and totaled 189 saves. Sunday's 2-0 victory over William & Mary marked her 30th match with A&M, and so far she has turned away 91 shots on goal as an Aggie. Three times at ULL she posted 10 saves in a match. The most shots she has had to deal with this season at A&M is five -- one below her average as a Ragin' Cajun.
"She was called on many times to make a lot of saves all game long, and she was used to having to be thrown into the fire all the time," A&M coach G Guerrieri said. "When she transferred to us, I tried to make it pretty clear to her that as a Texas A&M goalkeeper you are probably only going to have to make two, maybe three saves a game, but you have to make them. The hardest thing is keeping concentration, keeping focus, because there are lots of distractions, and it is going to be bang, bang when you have to step up to the plate."
For the most part, Morche has handled the concentration game with 14 shutouts at A&M -- eight more than she had at ULL -- while posting an. 827 save percentage.
Morche says the transition of being a focal point during a match to playing more of a cameo appearance took a little adjustment.
"Our defensive line is like a brick wall, so I'm having to keep my mind and head in the game because I only have a few saves [to make]," Morche said. "I have to be ready for when those saves come. I just stay connected with my back line, stay communicating with them. Always letting them know where they should be keeps me in the game. I move with the ball and make sure I'm in the right spot at the right time every moment of the game."
Her ability to communicate has evolved since arriving at A&M, aided by the fact that two of her three teammates on the back line are her roommates.
At 6-foot-2, Morche has the frame to get a hand on shots shorter goalkeepers can't. She used her height while making a save in a 2-0 exhibition shutout against TCU, coming out of goal and snatching the ball off the TCU forward's foot in a 1-on-1 situation. She did it again when she acrobatically punched a shot over the crossbar against then-No. 9 Santa Clara to keep a clean sheet in the 4-0 victory.
Morche says the save against TCU is her favorite because she chalked it up to taking her work on the practice field to the match.
"When I was back in Louisiana I wasn't as technically ready as I am now, so whenever I made those saves in Louisiana they would be hard saves," Morche said. "I wouldn't put myself in the right position to make the easy save. Since I've been here I've learned to put myself in the right position to be able to make that easy save instead of not being there and having to make a quick, crazy save. Over time playing, all the experience, learning from [Guerrieri] is putting myself in the situation to make life easy for me with positioning on the field."
Although she's had plenty of help from defenders Jordan Hill, Briana Alston and Kendall Ritchie, Morche has improved her numbers this season, allowing just two goals in 720 minutes.
"She's gotten more lean, gotten more muscular, and her flexibility has increased quite a bit, but that all goes down to her focus with the fact that she is here to achieve some big goals." Guerrieri said. "She knows she can't just show up on game day, and that is right. She is the kind of kid you want back there. She has a very, very mature attitude."
Morche's move to A&M, which she initiated with the help of her parents, also came about because of her want to play in the postseason. Last season, the Aggies went two rounds deep into the NCAA tournament, and with A&M ranked fourth nationally after the first month of play, Morche is expecting a deep run this season.
When it ends, she also wants to continue her career.
"I can't really imagine not playing soccer after college," said Morche, who played her junior soccer in Georgia. "I'm willing to go anywhere to keep playing. I just love it so much I don't want to stop, but I'm going to focus on the season because I want us to do so well and I want to keep my mind in the right place."
A&M (8-0) will open Southeastern Conference play at 7:30 p.m. Friday against LSU (6-1) at Ellis Field.
The SEC features four teams in the Top 15 with No. 9 Auburn (7-0), No. 11 Tennessee (6-0-1) No. 15 South Carolina (6-1) joining A&M. Three teams have perfect marks -- A&M, Auburn and Mississippi State (7-0), and only teams have records under .500 -- Florida (2-5-1) and Missouri (2-4-1). The Gators are the coaches' preseason pick to win the SEC but haven't scored a goal since Aug. 19 and have struggled with a tough nonconference schedule that featured four Top 25 teams, including three in the Top 10.
A&M has one last nonconference match, hosting No. 18 Kansas (5-0-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday. The rest of the Aggies' schedule includes SEC matches, the SEC tournament set for Oct. 28-Nov. 4 in Orange Beach, Alabama, and the NCAA tournament.