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No. 15 Auburn set for Iron Bowl of soccer

Hailey Whitaker (1)
Soccer vs Syracuse on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Auburn, Ala.
Cat Wofford/Auburn Athletics
Hailey Whitaker (1) Soccer vs Syracuse on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. Cat Wofford/Auburn Athletics

After a 1-0 OT win at LSU on Monday, the Auburn Tigers (3-1-2) clinched a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament and the programs 300th win all-time. This marks the team’s first bye in the tournament since 2016. Friday, Auburn will host in-state rival Alabama (1-4-2) in the 29th edition of the Iron Cup.

In the series history, Auburn leads the Crimson Tide 18-8-2 overall and 9-2-1 in games played at the Auburn Soccer Complex. Last season, the visiting Tide got the last laugh at the conference tournament defeating the Tigers 2-1 in OT. In Iron Cup matches which exclude post season play, Auburn has maintained possession of the trophy since 2012 seeing eight consecutive victories.

“They throw the records out the window – it doesn’t matter who’s favored, who’s not. The game is going to be a rivalry game, it always is,” said coach Karen Hoppa when asked about the upcoming match. 

Head coach of Alabama, Wes Hart and his squad have been scratching for a second win since their season opener against Tennessee on September 19th. The Crimson Tide average 1.29 goals per game which is more than Auburn, but they have allowed over a half a goal more against opponents. The Tigers rank first in save percentage (.900), team goals against average (0.597), and shutout percentage (.500) in the SEC and are top 10 nationally in each of the categories. It’s been the defense, led by captain Sarah Houchin in front of freshman keeper Maddie Prohaska who has already pitched two solo shutouts in her young career. 

On the other side of the ball, Auburn has had a difficult time finding the back of the net. Thus far, four games have been decided by sudden death overtime and the Tigers haven’t managed to put across more than one goal in a single game. 

“We need to be more efficient offensively with our opportunities,” Coach Hoppa said referring to her team ranking 13th in the conference in shots on goal per game with only 4.67.

This abnormal eight game schedule has already seen two postponements, forcing a loaded end to the season for Auburn. Friday’s match marks the Tiger’s fourth game in two weeks and they will finish the regular season at No. 3 Texas A&M on Monday, Nov. 9th. Alabama enters their final contest with a week of rest before heading to Orange Beach November 13th along with the rest of conference teams.

The Tigers look to maintain control of the Iron Cup this Friday at 6 p.m. CST. Listen to the game exclusively on WEGL 91.1 FM/ with pregame coverage at 5:45 CST. Aidan Kowalski and Jacob Hillman have the call between Auburn and Alabama in the Iron Bowl of Soccer.

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