AUBURN, Ala. - Despite the postgame fireworks, the back line stole the show for the 20th-ranked Auburn soccer team in a 1-0 victory against Missouri on Friday night at the Auburn Soccer Complex.
The Tigers (8-4-0, 4-1-0 SEC) have gotten off to their best start in conference play since 2007 by taking 12 points through five matches against league foes.
Karli Gutsche scored the lone goal in Auburn's fifth shutout of the season from a corner that was sent in by Brooke Ramsier. Casie Ramsier and Taylor Troutman each paced the team with three shots on the night.
"I'm really pleased with how we played," said head coach Karen Hoppa. "I thought we fought hard all game and didn't think our soccer was great in the first half, but in the second half we played some really good, quality soccer. We obviously got a great goal off a corner, had some chances besides that and then the girls did a great job of closing out the game against a really quality Missouri team."
Sarah Le Beau went the distance between the posts and made four saves. The defense of Kiana Clarke, Samantha Solaru, Gutsche and Troutman held a Missouri (8-4-0, 3-2-0) offensive unit that racked up seven goals in its previous three matches scoreless for just the third time all season.
"We made mistakes, but as long as we had each other's back, we were fine," stated Clarke.
Both teams were held without a goal in the opening 45 minutes of play. Missouri held a shot advantage of 7-5 and had taken three corners, but Auburn's defense was able to hold strong and keep the road team off the scoresheet.
In the second half, the orange and blue Tigers worked their way down the field and earned a corner in the 64th minute. Brooke Ramsier then sent a ball into the box and found Gutsche who buried it into the back of the net for her first career goal.
"It was a great build-up to get us down [in the attacking third]," said Gutsche. "Brooke [Ramsier] hit a great ball in from the corner and I just saw the ball and went for it. When it finally hit the back of the net, I was so excited."
Missouri made one final push in the final 10 minutes of play, but the score remained unchanged and sent Auburn to its third consecutive victory.
"I thought our [defensive] backs were outstanding," said Hoppa. "Sarah [Le Beau] did a great job cleaning up everything behind them and it was led by a tremendous performance by our center backs. Karli Gutsche and Kiana Clarke were outstanding all game."
Auburn returns to the road for its next match when it travels to Lexington, Ky. for a conference duel with Kentucky. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.