After a 93-day rest period, the Auburn Women’s Soccer team will resume their 2020-’21 season at home tomorrow at 5pm. Months ago many believed a season would never be played amidst a “pandemic” that shut down a nation. Similar rules apply from the Fall with fan attendance limited to Auburn students and friends/family of players, but much of the public found a hill side just beyond the East side of the complex to be quite an enjoyable place to catch the game. With an eight-game schedule in place, the NCAA has decided to continue with the 64-team tournament to be held in April in Cary, NC.
Let’s recap. In the Fall, Auburn finished 4-4-2 in a conference only schedule good for fourth in the West division. Receiving a berth to the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, the Tigers took Georgia to double overtime before Mallory Mooney kicked the game winner in the 100th minute to seal it 2-1. Auburn would advance to take on #6 Arkansas in the second round just a couple days after. Trailing 0-4 at the half, the underdog Tigers lit up the Razorback’s net scoring three times in the second half. After coming up a goal short of what would have been a miraculous comeback, the Auburn Seniors really felt they could compete with anyone exclaiming to Head Coach Karen Hoppa after the game. Of the 11 goals scored by the Tigers in the Fall, five of them came when it counted most in their tournament run.
Momentum to put it simply is difficult to stop behind the force of an Auburn team that knows how to score. With an eight game Spring slate to be played, it means new life for a team whose season should be over under normal circumstances. January usually marks a time for personal growth and skill development under Coach Hoppa’s leadership. Since COVID threw a wrench in the system, this past month has been full of team growth and scrimmages for the Tigers. Keeping momentum after three months without competition is difficult despite being able to field the same team in what feels like a new season. A Fall sport being played in early Spring will bring on challenges that collegiate soccer down south usually doesn’t have to face. Temperatures for Friday’s opener vs Kennesaw State are projected to drop into the 20’s and may change some plans of attack for both sides.
Coming off a 1-0 victory last Friday at Jacksonville, the visiting Owls come into the match not having played a Fall schedule. Despite what little information Auburn has on Kennesaw State having only played a single game this season, Coach Hoppa mentioned the “need to be more productive in the final 3rd” (of the field) against a strong defensive team from seasons past.
In the box for the Owls will be Sophomore AJ Needham who recorded a shutout in her only game of the season with one save on one shot at Jacksonville. The Tigers plan to return potential SEC Freshman of the year front runner Maddie Prohaska in net who leads the conference in save percentage (.807) and totals 46 saves in 10 games.
Catch tomorrow nights game exclusively on WEGL 91.1FM or streaming on weglfm.com. Pregame coverage begins at 4:45pm with Aidan Kowalski and Gavin Rankins on the call.