Sept. 25, 2009
STARKVILLE, Miss. - In the span of two minutes in the second half, Auburn turned a close match into a blowout as the Auburn soccer team opened up its Southeastern Conference season with a 5-1 win on a muddy field at Mississippi State on Friday night. Rebecca Howell and Stephanie Fransoso each had a goal and an assist in the win as Auburn improved to 4-2-3, 1-0-0 SEC.
"It's opening night in the SEC and you want to be 1-0 at the end of tonight because you stay in first place," Auburn Head Coach Karen Hoppa said. "We are thrilled about the result. The girls fought really hard through some rough conditions which changed the way we played; we played much more direct than we normally do because the field surface was so bad."
Leading 3-1, Auburn put the match out of reach in the 65th minute as Howell took an Ana Cate feed and buried a shot to the opposite post from the top of the six for her third goal of the season and the 17th of her career. Two minutes later it was Chelsea Yauch posting her second goal of the season, finishing off a Howell pass to put Auburn up, 5-1, with 22-plus minutes remaining.
"Caitlin got a good first touch and played Ana in. My main focus was to stay onsides and Ana played a great ball slipped in between the center-back and the left-outside back and it was an easy finish," Howell said of her goal.
Julie King had put Auburn up, 3-1, just nine minutes into the second half as she put the finishing touches on a Heather Havron corner for her first career goal. Howell had earned the corner with her play near the end line, setting up the Havron service. Havron's ball initially went in on MSU goalkeeper Taryn Holland but she was unable to control the ball, allowing Caitlin King to settle the ball before Julie King knocked it in from her position inside the six.
"Heather put in a nice cross of the corner and Caitlin did a really good job of getting to the ball and knocking it down. I think it just pinged around the box a little bit and I was lucky enough to get my foot on it," Julie King said.
Fransoso's third goal of the season had given Auburn a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute as she headed in a Lizzie Hamersly free kick. Hamersly launched the free kick following a Mississippi State foul from roughly 10 yards over the midfield stripe and Fransoso was able to leap and get a head on it at the top of the sixth. The goal was the first goal allowed in a first half by Mississippi State (8-1-0, 0-1-0 SEC) this season.
"Lizzie had a really good kick from outside shooting range and I just made sure that I could get to it and put a head on it," Fransoso said. "We adjusted well (to the muddy conditions) and learned to deal with it and score off our chances."
Auburn went up two goals, 2-0, just four minutes later as Fransoso played give-and-go with Katy Frierson. Frierson played Fransoso the ball at the top corner of the 18 and she one-touched it back to Frierson, who blasted in her third goal of the season and 12th of her career. Of her 12 career goals, 10 of them have come in SEC play.
Mississippi State pulled to within a goal, 2-1, less than a minute after Frierson's goal, capitalizing on the wet playing surface in the 32nd minute. Kat Walsh found Jasmine Simmons just outside the 18 and her shot to the upper-90 was initially stopped by Howard but due to the slickness of the ball, she was unable to hold onto it as it found the back-corner for Simmons' first goal of the season.
"Give Mississippi State credit; they cut our lead in half going into halftime and our girls did a great job of responding at halftime to get the job done and put the game away," Hoppa said.
Auburn out-shot Mississippi State, 13-6, in the first half and 23-12 overall. Auburn was able to put 13 shots on frame compared to just four for Mississippi State.
Mary Coffed had two shots stopped by Holland late in the first half, getting a pair of open looks during the final four minutes of the half but Holland was able to snuff out both chances.
Howell's three points on the night gave her 55 for her career while Caitlin King's two assists gave her 23 on her career, tied for third on the Auburn career charts with Kristen Schier (1994-97).
Mississippi State's goal was its' first against Auburn since the 2001 season.
Auburn has scored five-or-more goals in four of the last five meetings between the two teams.
Auburn travels to Oxford, Miss., for its next match, meeting Ole Miss at 2pm CT on Sunday on ESPNU. Ole Miss did not play on Friday night as rain made the field in Oxford unplayable for the Ole Miss-Alabama match.