Nov. 5, 2010

Courtesy of Oklahoma Athletics

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - After 90 minutes of scoreless soccer, OU needed just one minute and 24 seconds into overtime on Friday to upset No. 6 Texas A&M, 1-0, and advance to the Big 12 Championship game on Sunday.

Senior forward Whitney Palmer scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season on a rebound that was created by sophomore Dria Hampton, who was credited with the assist. Palmer gathered the deflection in the box off Hampton's shot that banged off the left post, and put away the 10th game winner of her career.

"I was hoping for her (Hampton) to finish it, but I knew that if anything would happen, I would be there right there for her because she worked that hard. So we needed to get a goal off of that," said Palmer who is OU's all-time leader with 38 career goals. "So I was just there to finish it. I tend to, sometimes, get in there and get some of the rebounds that come out, and I have scored a couple of goals off that."

"I just knew when it hit the post that someone is finishing this," Hampton said. "As soon as I saw Whitney's No. 8 (jersey), I said 'Goal.'"

The Sooners improved to 12-7-2 and have won two out of the last three meetings with the Aggies. Texas A&M (15-4-2) entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and defeated OU, the No. 4 seed, two weeks earlier in double overtime in College Station.

The Sooners have won two straight games against ranked teams with today's win over the No. 6 Aggies and Wednesday's quarterfinal win over No. 21 Texas.

"It's a huge step," said OU Head Coach Nicole Nelson on the Sooners advancing to the Big 12 Championship. "Its a huge step in that in the last five games, we've played top 25 teams in every game, and won three out of those five. And you are talking about storied, nationally-recognized programs. Texas A&M is a good program. Texas is a good program. Those are three good wins for us."

On Friday, the Sooners dominated the shot count in the first half with a 10-5 advantage, but the Aggies battled back in the second half. OU finished the game with an 18-17 edge in shots, let by Hampton's four shots, including two on goal.

"I was really happy with the tempo and pressure that we kept forcing," added Nelson.

The Sooners have been proving pundits wrong all year after being picked 10th in the Big 12 preseason coaches' poll. While OU by its three seniors (Palmer, Lauren Alkek and Tiana Dickson) among many others, the lineup has featured five newcomers in the starting lineup week in and week out, including four true freshmen. Seven of the 11 starters on Friday were underclassmen.

"We are young, but I feel like we have enough leadership and balance in each class, to kind of balance out that youth," said Nelson. "I am very proud of this group. We are just going after it."

Friday's overtime game was just the third in the series between OU and Texas A&M. The Aggies won both of the previous meetings, including this season's meeting and the second round game of the 2001 Big 12 Championship, the first and last time OU was in the semifinals.

Sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Devonshire recorded her second straight shutout and sixth of the season with six saves in the contest. She also moved into sole possession of third place all-time with 11 shutouts at OU ahead of Jana Cunningham (1999-2002). In addition, OU hadn't blanked the Aggies in 16 all-time meetings prior to today.

"She came up big time for us," said Nelson about Devonshire. "A&M is a very lethal team going forward. I was really proud of the saves she made and her composure."

The Sooners will play on Sunday at noon against the winner of No. 2 seed Oklahoma State and No. 3 seed Nebraska. The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Southwest (Cox Channel 37 in OKC).

OU is just the third No. 4 seed to play in the championship game. Previously, No. 3 Missouri topped No. 4 Colorado in 2008 and in 2004, No. 2 Texas A&M beat No. 4 Texas.