Nov. 2, 2012
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - The Auburn soccer team will have a chance to defend its Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship title from a year ago on Sunday after taking down second seeded and No. 12 Texas A&M, 2-0, on Friday afternoon in the SEC semifinals. Auburn will face the winner of the Florida-Missouri game at 2:30pm on Sunday in a game that will air live on ESPNU.
"Wow. It was just a gutty performance." Auburn Head Coach Karen Hoppa said. "Texas A&M is a great team, they're one of the best teams in the country and they certainly had their chances. Our team just gutted it out, from the saves off the line, the blocked shots and the play of our goalkeeper. We scored two terrific goals. I'm really proud of their performance today."
Auburn (12-9-1) was held to just six total shots in the match, three in each half, while holding the potent Texas A&M (17-4-1) offense off the board despite surrendering 19 total shots, 11 of them on frame.
Maddie Barnes netted what turned into the eventual game-winner just four-and-a-half minutes into the second half. Having missed on a scoring opportunity eight minutes into the match, Barnes redeemed herself in the second when she headed in a Tatiana Coleman cross for the 1-0 lead.
"There is something about this time of year for our team; we really come together and it was awesome," Barnes said. "Tatiana got in line and served it right to my head. I was wide open and it went in."
The lead stayed that way for just 14 minutes until Coleman dropped the hammer with her ninth goal of the season, finishing off a Tori Ball feed from 10 yards out past Texas A&M goalkeeper Jordan Day. The goal tied Coleman for eighth in school history in single-season goals and also improved Auburn's record to 8-0-0 this season when she scored a goal and 13-0-0 in her two-year career.
Goalkeeper Amy Howard again played a big role in the win, recording nine saves in the match to post her second straight shutout and her fourth in SEC Tournament action. The senior made five saves in the first half, including a leaping save on a shot from 40 yards out, and then four in the second half to preserve her seventh shutout this season and the 22nd of her career. The nine stops also moved her into third all-time in SEC history with 369 saves.
"This was an incredible win," Howard said. "It was big-time because we needed a result and it was big-time because it showed that we can come together and beat these top-25 teams, and really play with the big dogs."
Texas A&M dominated possession in the first half, taking nine shots and putting five on frame. Auburn's only quality scoring attempt came on its very first shot when Barnes hit the inside of the post eight minutes in. Unfortunately the ball spun back out and across the goalmouth instead of in, ultimately sending Auburn to its ninth scoreless first half of the season and second of the tournament.
Auburn will be playing in the SEC Tournament Championship game for the fifth time, also reaching it in 1994, 2001, 2005 and 2011. The five appearances are the most by any SEC West school and ties Auburn with Tennessee for the second-most in league history behind Florida (13).
"Last year was so special winning it for the first time in school history and being the first SEC West team to win it," Hoppa said of having the chance to defend the SEC Tournament title. "We never dreamed that we'd be back here again and get the opportunity to defend that title. We really had to try and make sure that the team focused one game at a time and now we've got a shot at it on Sunday."
Auburn will be looking to become the first SEC Tournament repeat champion since Tennessee won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.
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