Auburn Soccer loses to Samford in first round of the NCAA Tournament

<p>Olivia Candelino dribbles the ball in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament match against Samford at the Auburn Soccer Complex | Grayson Belanger/AU Athletics</p>

Olivia Candelino dribbles the ball in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament match against Samford at the Auburn Soccer Complex | Grayson Belanger/AU Athletics

Auburn Soccer, in its 17th NCAA Tournament appearance, lost in the first round to Samford 2-0 in a hard fought match. The Tigers were in control for most of the scoreless first half but two huge goals in the second half made all the difference.

Following a slow first half, the Bulldogs went on the attack in the second half, with five total shots and four of them on goal. They eventually broke through the Auburn defense twice, with a goal in the 61st minute by Mary Raymond to break the tie and another 16 minutes later from Taylor Yount to extend the lead. Kyle Reynolds assisted on Yount’s goal.

That Auburn defense, which has been a strength for the Tigers so far this season, was without senior defender M.E. Craven, who went down with an injury in the Tigers’ SEC Tournament match against Arkansas. Craven’s six-foot-two-inch frame was missing on the defensive side as well as on Auburn’s six corner kicks.

“It was massive, not having her, and we really were hoping we would have her. Obviously we prepared without her and I thought Olivia Dedels was excellent in her place, but M.E. just does so much for us,” head coach Karen Hoppa said. “She’s our captain center back, she’s our leader back there.”

The explosive first half for Samford came after the Bulldogs were almost completely shut down in the first half, finishing the first 45 minutes with only one shot. For the Tigers, Auburn controlled most of the first half with 7 total shots and a majority of the half spent on the Samford side of the field.

Auburn had a lot of opportunities down the stretch but they simply could not find the back of the net with Samford goalkeeper Morgan McAlsan coming up with four clutch saves down the stretch.

Anna Haddock led the way for the Tigers on the offensive end with seven total shots and goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska finished the match with two saves and two goals allowed. 

Despite the first round loss, Hoppa remains optimistic for the future as the team is very young with a combined 21 freshmen and sophomores.

“We’re certainly disappointed with the loss. It’s not the way we wanted to send out our seniors,” Hoppa said. “We’re obviously very young, and I think there’s a lot our team can learn from this. We’re looking forward to next year already.”

Auburn finishes the season with a 12-7-1 record and Samford extends their winning streak to 13 matches and will head to Durham, North Carolina next week for the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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