Oct. 31, 2008
AUBURN, Ala. -
Auburn claimed a share of its sixth Southeastern Conference West Division Crown with its' 4-0 win over rival Alabama on Friday night at the Auburn Soccer Complex, winning its' fourth straight match to end the regular season 11-7-2, 7-3-1 SEC. The win cemented Auburn's hold on the No. 3 seed in next week's SEC Tournament in Orange Beach and gave Auburn the Iron Bowl of Soccer Trophy for the third straight season.
Seniors played a big role in Auburn's 40th win in the last four seasons as goalkeeper Allison Whitworth made eight saves to record her 21st career shutout; Kara Kasten scored a goal to move her into a tie for ninth on Auburn's career goals list; Jenn Johnson played an entire game on the backline for the 19th time this season; and Kori Hoelsher logged 32 minutes off the bench, the fourth-most playing time she has seen this season.
After weathering a brisk Alabama (9-8-2, 4-6-1 SEC) onslaught in the opening minutes of the match that resulted in four shots and five corners for the Crimson Tide, Auburn turned the tables on Alabama when Jenni Prescott rifled in a shot from 40 yards out to give Auburn the 1-0 lead at the 21:48 mark. Prescott had gotten the ball from Chelsea Yauch, who passed it back after holding off a defender with her back at the top of the 18, and then Prescott fired from long range, benefitting from a deflection off an Alabama defender.
"The first half wasn't our best soccer as Alabama did a great job of disrupting what we were trying to do. Our girls did a good job of finding some early looks and making our own luck by continuing to press," Auburn Head Coach Karen Hoppa said.
Seventeen minutes later Kasten was able to fool the Alabama offense with a shot from outside the top corner of the 18 to make it 2-0. Collecting a cross from Rebecca Howell, who now has 19 career assists, fifth-best in Auburn history, Kasten fired a shot near post and Stephanie Fransoso caused enough of a distraction to Alabama goalkeeper Kara Gudmens for Kasten's shot to sneak in for her sixth goal of the season.
"There was so much on this game and it feels great to win," Kasten said. "I took a pretty hard shot to the near post and Stephanie ran right in front of it, blocking the keepers' sight and I guess she just lost sight of it."
Coming out of the break with a 2-0 lead, Auburn built on that just eight minutes into the second period as Gabi Rivera led a streaking Fransoso perfectly into the box and Fransoso did the rest from there, beating her defender and the keeper one-on-one for her fourth goal of the season and a 3-0 lead.
Howell put the finishing touches on the match when Rivera found her inside the 18 with a cross from the Alabama goal line that Howell was able to one-touch in for her sixth goal of the season and her 47th career point in the 75th minute.
Whitworth had to make a couple of big-time saves in the final minutes to preserve her seventh shutout of the season, with none bigger than the diving save she made on Kelsey King with 2:33 remaining after King found herself one-on-one with the senior keeper. The dive punctuated what was another great night for the senior from Birmingham, who now has 116 saves on the season and 340 for her career.
"It's a great feeling to come out and complete a season with a win against Alabama and be the best in the West," Whitworth said. "We did a great job of blocking shots and working hard defensively on re-serves, getting behind the ball and clearing crosses. Everyone did a great job of backing each other up."
Auburn will share its SEC West title with LSU but loses the tiebreaker due to its' loss in Baton Rouge earlier this month. Auburn will face Tennessee in a rematch of last Sunday's 2-1, overtime win in the first round of the SEC Tournament at the Orange Beach Soccer Complex on Wednesday. Start time is set for 2:30pm.