One of the most remarkable runs in Texas A&M athletics is in jeopardy of coming to an end.
The Aggie soccer team has made the NCAA tournament 21 straight seasons -- a mark matched only by four other soccer programs -- but a string of a team-high five matches without a victory has A&M having to scramble if it is to extend that streak to 22.
Texas A&M, which was once as high as No.8 in the rankings, finds itself one game above .500 at 7-6-1 going into Friday's match at Ole Miss. The Southeastern Conference record is an uncharacteristic 2-4-1.
The Aggies have four more regular season matches to turn the season around but continue to face what has haunted them over the last month at least.
"We are obviously going through unchartered waters," A&M coach G Guerrieri said. "Of our 26 players, 19 have been out, missed either full games, stretches of games and they are pretty key players. We've been on a run now of just trying to get [players] back on the field and while we've done that, some teams have taken advantage of the opportunity to get a lick in on Texas A&M."
The Aggies have played the SEC schedule without sophomore forward Emily Bates and starting midfielder Kate Hajdu, among others and the result has been a lack of an attack. Holding midfielder Grace Piper is second on the team in goals and she is now out for an undetermined time after a tackle that brought out a yellow card in the Missouri 1-1 draw.
A&M has scored six goals in seven SEC matches, with three coming in the conference opener, a 3-0 victory over LSU.
Guerrieri acknowledged that the last thing the players want is to be the group that did not make it into the tournament no matter the circumstances.
"I'm sure there is some pressure on them, but that's why they came to Texas A&M, to try and achieve great things so the pressure is automatically on you," Guerrieri said. "We expect so much of ourselves."
Guerrieri and his coaching staff have had to piece together a lineup from game to game with the losses up front and at one time or another to all three center backs. Olympian Stephanie Malherbe is just getting healthy after playing eight months for South Africa and the playmaker of the team, Mikaela Harvey, is arguably the most fouled player in the league and has had to sit out stretches of games.
It's almost as if Guerrieri has to look out over his players and ask for a raise of hands on who is healthy enough to go each match.
The Aggies need either a great run to end the regular season or in the SEC tournament to extend their string of NCAA tournament appearances. If they do hear the A&M name on selection day, it will be hardest-earned berth of the 22, which will make it the most gratifying.
One thing is for sure, with their history, if they do make it to the postseason and can field 11 healthy players, there are probably a number of higher-seeded teams that hope the Aggies are on the other side of the bracket.