Nov. 4, 2005
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -
Auburn extended its soccer season for at least one more game as the sixth-seeded Tigers shutout seventh-seeded Kentucky, 2-0, in the first semifinal match of the 2005 Southeastern Conference Soccer Tournament at the Orange Beach Soccer Complex on Friday night. The win guaranteed the Tigers of a return date with either top-seeded Tennessee or fourth-seeded Vanderbilt at 3:30 p.m. CT in a game to be broadcast on FSN South.
"We are so proud of this team's effort. It is so tough to play back-to-back because we don't do it all season," AU Head Coach Karen Hoppa said. "The team did a great job of pulling together and gutting out another tough performance."
Auburn (8-11-1) got on the board first with 14:32 left in the first half as All-SEC defender Ronda Brooks headed in what turned out to be her second game-winning goal of the tournament. This goal was very similar to Thursday night's game-winner as it too came off of a Courtney Crandell corner kick, though this was from the far side of the field as opposed to last night's near-side corner.
"Ronda is really playing like the high-level player that she is," Hoppa said. "Great players always step-up when the pressure is on and Ronda has certainly done that on both sides of the ball. She really has that back line playing well."
The corner was set up by Ashey Willis' hustle-shot as the senior grabbed a loose ball roughly 25-yards out and booted a shot that was headed upper-90 but was saved and pushed out of bounds by a leaping Anne Ogundele, the UK goalkeeper.
Kori Hoelscher scored the first goal of her career to ice the game for the Tigers with 19:44 remaining in the game. Her goal was set up when Jada Stewart and Leah Blayney played a little give-and-go crisscross 10-yards above the box. After receiving the ball from Blayney, Jada Stewart dribbled up to the top of the 18-yard box and pushed a ball through to Hoelscher. Hoelsher than beat her defender on the dribble before burying the shot for the 2-0 AU lead.
"It was a great ball by Jada and I was just happy to put it in," Hoelscher said. "A 1-0 lead is not easy (to defend) so that second goal really helped."
Auburn put the pressure on Ogundele to keep the game close in the first half as the Tigers attacked early and often on the Kentucky (8-6-7) side of the field, attempting six shots, five of which were on frame.
Courtney Crandell got Ogundele working first as she fired a shot into the midsection of the UK keeper as she took a free kick from the top of the box after Kristin Stewart drew the foul with less than nine minutes off of the clock.
Less than a minute later it was Kristin Stewart trying to head a ball past Ogundele as she received a ball off of a Lauren Stewart free kick after Jada Stewart drew a foul.
Jada Stewart had the final first-half scoring chance as she took a shot from 35-yards out that was headed for the top-center of the net, but again Ogundele leaped and punched the scoring attempt over top of the UK goal.
In the second half it was AU's keeper Anna Fiser that had the task of preserving the lead as the Wildcats upped the offensive pressure, forcing Fiser to make a handful of diving saves to preserve the shutout.
Fiser's biggest save came at the 77-minute mark UK's Kristen Jedlo forced Fiser to make a diving save on her line. Four minutes later it was Fiser's presence that helped the Tigers keep the shutout as Courtney McCrudden found herself uncovered to her right but pushed a shot right that found the base of the post and rebounded out for an Auburn clear.
Kentucky's final pressure came with 3:52 left as Kristin Moyer again forced Fiser to make a diving save, propelling the Tigers to their first SEC Championship game since 2001.
Fiser finished the night with 10 saves, nine of which came in the second half.
"Kentucky played a great game," Hoppa said. "They kept the pressure on us throughout the game and wouldn't give in. They played hard and I have to give them a lot of credit."
"It has been a long battle. We have had a lot of injuries and some tough losses, but our team is strong at heart and we just fought it out this time and it feels great," Hoelscher said.
The Tigers advanced to the SEC Tournament title for just the second time in school history. The only other time AU went the distance was in 2001, when AU fell to Florida.
"We are real happy to be here on Sunday. Coming in as a sixth-seed we weren't a favorite. We have just taken it one game at a time," Hoppa said.
The shutout was Auburn's first-ever SEC Tournament shutout.
Auburn fell to both Tennessee and Vanderbilt, 1-0, in regular-season action.
Fans wishing to listen to the game can tune into WZMG 910 AM in the Auburn-Opelika area or on the internet at www.auburntigers.com.