Oct. 22, 2008
AUBURN, Ala. -
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With just three regular season matches left, the Auburn soccer team will need to be at its best over the next week as it continues to fight for a SEC Tournament berth and a possible inclusion into a third straight NCAA Tournament. The battle continues this Thursday night in Athens, Ga., when Auburn plays Georgia at 7pm CT in a nationally televised game on the Fox Soccer Channel and then continues on Sunday at 2pm at home against Tennessee.
"We are going to have our hands full this weekend. Both games are winnable but we are facing two great teams in Georgia and Tennessee," Auburn Head Coach Karen Hoppa said. "What makes this weekend so crucial is all three teams are in a similar position, battling for not only SEC Tournament seeding but also for the NCAA Tournament."
Auburn enters the week 8-7-2 overall and 4-3-1 in the SEC, tied for fifth in the conference standings with last Sunday's opponent, South Carolina (10-4-3, 4-3-1 SEC). Georgia (7-8-1, 5-2-1 SEC) and Tennessee (8-8-0, 5-3-0 SEC) are the two teams directly in front of Auburn in the conference standings while hot on their heels in the SEC Tournament race are Alabama (9-6-1, 4-4-0 SEC) and Arkansas (11-5-0, 4-4-0) with just four points separating the six teams.
Freshman Katy Frierson has been the offensive catalyst for Auburn in conference play, recording all eight of her goals against SEC competition while all but two of her team-leading 21 points have also come in league action. A strong candidate for SEC Freshman of the Year honors, she was recently tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week and was named to Soccer America's Team of the Week.
Defensively it begins with senior goalkeeper Allison Whitworth, who is closing in on the school record for saves in a career. Needing just 14 more to top former all-American Megan Rivera's 328 saves, Whitworth is also in the SEC annuls and is just 10 saves shy of reaching sixth on the SEC career saves leader board.
The matches this weekend are key for all three teams as they try to secure NCAA Tournament berths as well. Needing to be above .500 to be eligible for selection, all three squads are hovering around the mark with Auburn a game over, Georgia a game under and Tennessee right at the mark.
"We control our own destiny and that was our message to the team this weekend," Hoppa said. "We probably won't know about our place in the SEC Tournament until the final day of the season because of how strong the league is this year. If we take every match one match at a time and do what we are capable of we should be in a good position come NCAA Tournament selection time."
Sunday's game is Family Fun Day and there will be inflatable games, cheek tattoos from the Auburn cheerleaders, a performance by the Auburn Tiger Paws and a balloon artist in attendance. The first 250 fans will also receive an Auburn Lunch Bag from Barber's Dairy. Admission to Sunday's match is free.