Soccer Opens SEC Play On Friday At Mississippi State
Sept. 24, 2009
AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn soccer team jumps into Southeastern Conference play this weekend, traveling to Mississippi State and Ole Miss for the opening conference weekend. Friday's match in Starkville kicks off at 7pm CT while Sunday's clash in Oxford begins at 2pm and will air live on ESPNU.
"We told the team after the North Carolina match that every team was tough in the non-conference season. If we can play that quality of soccer and that pace of soccer, we need to carry that into every SEC game because we are certainly prepared for the level of SEC play," Hoppa said.
Auburn is 3-2-3 on the year and is coming off of a scoreless tie with then-No. 1 and defending national champion North Carolina at the Duke Nike Classic last weekend in Durham, N.C. Superb play by the backline and goalkeeper Amy Howard keyed Auburn's tie with the Tar Heels as Howard stopped a career-high 12 shots and was named the Soccer America Player of the Week, the SEC Freshman of the Week and a CollegeSoccer360.com Primetime Performer. She and defender Lizzie Hamersly also were placed on the Duke Nike Classic All-Tournament team for their work against North Carolina and Duke. Howard enters the weekend leading the SEC in saves (49) and saves per game (6.12), is sixth in save percentage (.860) and 10th in goals against average (0.94).
Auburn has played ahead or tied for 774 out of 797 minutes of play this season. The only time it has trailed in a match was for just over eight minutes during the first half and the final 14-plus minutes of its 2-1 loss to Missouri as well as at the horn of the 2-1, double-overtime loss at Duke.
Auburn owns a commanding 10-3-1 lead in the series with Mississippi State (8-0-0) and has won eight of the last nine matches, including seven straight. Mississippi State has not scored a goal on Auburn since a 2-1, double-overtime win in Starkville in 2001. Since then, Auburn has outscored Mississippi State, 24-0.
"Mississippi State is a tough place to play," Hoppa said. "Being on the road, and they are undefeated, they are going to come in with a ton of confidence. The biggest key for us will be to start fast."
Auburn holds an 8-7-1 edge in the series with Ole Miss (6-2-0) but has not picked up a win over the Rebels since a 2-1 overtime win in 2004. Since then Auburn has gone 0-4-1 with two of the losses coming in double-overtime.
"Ole Miss is a big (SEC) West rival for us. They have had our number. Our seniors have never beaten them and they set it as one of our team goals," Hoppa said.
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