callyn walton

Callyn Walton grew up in the shadows of Ellis Field and spent almost all of her fall Friday nights in the stands cheering on her favorite Texas A&M team. And as a third generation Aggie, that soccer match that caught Walton’s interest the most was the once annual meeting with Texas.

So when Walton became a member of the A&M soccer team, she felt the void left in the schedule when the Aggies moved from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference, effectively ending the rivalry with the Longhorns.

At least for one year, the NCAA tournament selection committee filled that void by sending Texas to A&M for a first-round match at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Ellis Field.

“That was the first thing that I said to my mom and dad was that it’s come full circle, because the most fun game, the one I looked forward to the most was the Texas game,” said Walton, an A&M Consolidated graduate. “So the last [home] game getting to play Texas ... I’m so pumped. I wasn’t able to go to the selection show [party], because I was in class, but I saw the text and I got so excited in my class, which is small. They were wondering what’s going on, and I was like, ‘I’m so excited we are playing Texas.’”

Renewing the rivalry has a lot of players, coaches and fans excited, but probably none as much as Walton, who thought a game against Texas would never materialize.

“My brother [Cade] lives in Dallas, and he got both his degrees here, so he asked for work off on Friday so he could make it, and he’s coming down,” Walton said. “They are so excited, because growing up in our household, [attending] Texas was not an option. My dislike for the school will be at an all-time high on Friday. I can’t wait.”

Walton, who has known A&M coach G Guerrieri’s family since playing youth soccer, served as a ball girl for the Aggies — a picture of her at age 11 hangs in the soccer offices — and has attended A&M’s summer camps since she can remember.

Most of her influences in soccer have been A&M players, particularly two-time All-American forward Ashlee Pistorius.

“That’s why I wear 24,” Walton said. “I was 24 since competitive soccer, and thank goodness when I got here there wasn’t [anyone wearing 24] and I was able to have it. Her, the Curry twins (Cydne and Natalie), Rachel Shipley, Kat Krambeer, that whole era really captured me I guess. Kati Jo Spisak made me want to be a goalkeeper for awhile. She was so cool.”

Walton never did play goalkeeper, but for four years at fullback, she has been a big part of some good defensive units at A&M.

“We recruited her because of her potential,” Guerrieri said. “We recruited her because she’s a great Aggie, works hard, and we knew how hard she worked on trying to improve her game from middle school age all the way through high school.”

Walton didn’t have to wait long to make her mark at A&M. She started in the Fish Camp game against No. 1 Florida State as a freshman, one of her four starts that season in which she played 10 games.

“I think it helped me coming to school early [in the previous spring],” Walton said. “It helped me get my feet in the water, and when preseason came around, I wasn’t nervous because I knew all the girls on the team, which helped. I remember that first game. [Associate coach Phil Stephenson] asked if I was having fun. I said, ‘Yes, this is what I’ve dreamed of my entire life and it’s finally happened and this is awesome.’ It was something I’m really proud of.”

Overall, Walton has played in 58 games with 37 starts at A&M. She started 14 games as a sophomore, the season the Aggies won the SEC tournament, which Walton said was her highlight while playing for A&M.

As a junior her playing time dropped, and she admitted after such a successful sophomore season it was a tough time.

“Once you play, are a consistent player and then the next season to have it not happen, it sucks. Really it brings down your confidence,” Walton said. “It’s just not fun, because you know what it is like to play and then to not, it’s a hard adjustment. After my junior year, I made a mental note, told myself whatever happens if I’m not on the field I’m going to have fun, and it took the pressure off. I consciously made an effort to say, OK, enjoy it. It’s your last year, and it’s great that I’m even here and to even have the opportunity to try and play.”

The 5-foot-5 Walton has played in all 20 games as a senior, starting 13 including the last two.

“She looks at what needs to be polished up and goes out and tries to improve it,” Guerrieri said. “She’s always a great ball winner, individual defender, but she has taken her game from just being a destroyer to being more creative and being a more important part of the way we keep the ball instead of just the way we take the ball.”

Walton would like to add another first on Friday night and score her first goal for A&M. Her last goal came her junior season at Consol —also her last season with the Lady Tigers because she graduated early.

“Everyone keeps making these jokes, and I’m like, I’m trying,” Walton said. “I said I did this on purpose because Grace Wright (another Consol graduate) was a senior when I was a freshman, and she scored her only goal in the last game of SEC regular-season play against Mississippi State, and I’ve been saying to her I’m holding out, so I can beat you by scoring after you, and she just shakes her head.”

If it does come, it will likely be on a set piece. Walton is one of the players near the top of the box and is responsible for putting the ball back in the box or on goal immediately. She said it would make for some celebration.

“If it happens, it’s going to be this laser or something,” Walton said. “I have wanted to do [the ‘horns down’ hand sign] all of college, and it actually would mean something, and Friday is the chance.”

NOTES — Walton is one of seven players from the Bryan-College Station area to play soccer for A&M over the program’s 27 years. The group includes All-American Diana Rowe from 1994-97; Gillian Gandy (1997); Kristen McFalls (1999); Julie Almeida (2003-06); Kat Bartley (2010-11) and Wright (2013-16). ... Three players have scored 21 of the Longhorns’ 33 goals this season. Junior Haley Berg and sophomore Julia Grosso each have eight goals, and senior Cyera Hintzen has five. A&M’s two top goal scorers are senior Ally Watt with 15 and junior Jimena Lopez with nine. A&M has scored 46 goals. ... The Aggies beat the Longhorns 3-0 in Austin in their last meeting in 2011. A&M leads the all-time series 20-5-2. ... A&M signed seven recruits Wednesday, including Laney Carroll (forward, Redlands, Calif.), Kate Colvin (midfielder, Magnolia), Lauren Geczik (midfielder, Houston), Westyn Henderson (forward, McAllen), Barbara Olivieri (forward, Katy), Taylor Pounds (midfielder, Spring) and forward Anderson Williams of Calgary, Alberta.

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