Oct. 26, 2008
AUBURN, Ala. -
Gabi Rivera's second game-winning goal of 2008 was one of the biggest goals of the season for the Auburn soccer team as it gave Auburn a 2-1, double-overtime win on Sunday and pulled it into a first-place tie with LSU atop the Southeastern Conference's Western Division. Senior goalkeeper Allison Whitworth also had a memorable game as she finished the day with 10 saves, giving her a school-record 108 for the season and a new Auburn career record 332.
Auburn came out firing in the first half, taking four shots in the first five minutes but unfortunately was unable to put one over the line. Katy Frierson, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week and a strong candidate for Freshman of the Year honors, rifled a shot from 25 yards out that hit the top corner where the crossbar and post meet just over a minute into the contest, a shot similar to her game-winner at Georgia on Thursday night, but was denied of giving Auburn the early lead.
Auburn was finally able to light the scoreboard at 24:07 as Rebecca Howell netted her fifth goal of the season. Senior defender Jenn Johnson started the scoring play by taking the ball deep into the far corner, almost to the corner flag, before firing a pass back out to Frierson. Respecting the firepower of Frierson, the Tennessee defense smothered her but she was able to quickly cross the ball to an uncovered Howell in the box, who one-touched it in for the early 1-0 lead.
"I knew we were going to win this game because no of us was going to accept losing today," Howell said. "Katy serves a great ball and I was in a good position to put it in."
It looked like Auburn had gone up 2-0 just 10 minutes after intermission as Rivera ripped a shot into the far side of the Tennessee net only to have the goal negated by an Auburn foul on Tennessee (8-9-1, 5-4-1) goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson to keep it 1-0. From that point on, Tennessee seemingly turned up its offensive pressure and was able to tie the game at 1-1 as Kylee Rossi collected the rebound of Mick Imgram's free kick that hit the crossbar and swiftly put in her 13th goal of the season at 83:36.
"It is tough mentally when you have a lead and then you give it away so late in the game," Auburn Head Coach Karen Hoppa said. "The girls did a great job of regrouping for overtime, getting our chances and getting better as the overtimes went on. We just felt that it was coming and Gabi did a fantastic job finishing that goal"
After playing a scoreless first overtime, Rivera was able to propel Auburn to the win when she took a feed from Frierson just outside the box, dribbled in with a defender closing in on her and ripped a shot past Johnson for the winner at 105:34.
"Katy played me a great ball in. I saw the defender come at me, so I cut inside. I knew the goalkeeper had the far post so I went near post," Rivera said.
Whitworth, making her 69th career appearance between the pipes, surpassed the single-season record of 102 saves that she had set twice and was also held by former all-American keeper Megan Rivera with her save of an Imgram shot with just over five minutes left in the first half. She then established the career saves record with her seventh save of the afternoon, this one to close out regulation. With 332 career saves, she is now second all-time in SEC history, trailing just Nicole Williams (1997-00) of Georgia, who holds the conference record with 373 saves.
"Whit has had a fantastic career and we are very proud of her," Hoppa said.
The win pulled Auburn even with LSU atop the SEC West standings as both have identical 6-3-1 conference records, though LSU does hold the tiebreaker on Auburn due to its 2-1 overtime win on Oct. 10 in Baton Rouge. Auburn (10-7-2) will play host to Alabama (9-7-2, 4-5-1 SEC) in Friday night's regular-season finale at 7:30pm CT at the Auburn Soccer Complex while LSU (12-3-1, 6-3-1 SEC) will play host to Arkansas (11-7-0, 4-6-0 SEC), a team fighting a berth in the SEC Tournament, on the same night at 7pm.
The win also clinched Auburn's eighth straight SEC Tournament berth and gave it a 10-win season for the third straight season and the eighth time during Hoppa's 10-year tenure as the head coach at Auburn.