Nov. 5, 2013
Auburn players celebrate Monday’s victory over LSU in the first round of the SEC Tournament (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
A month ago, when Auburn’s soccer team was mired in a Southeastern Conference losing streak, postseason play seemed a distant dream.
On Oct. 6, Auburn lost 3-0 at Florida. That came just a week after a humbling 7-0 loss at Ole Miss. But today, on Nov. 6, the 10th-seeded Tigers will play their second game in the SEC Tournament when they take on No. 2 seed Texas A&M at noon at the Orange Beach Soccer Complex. And there is even a glimmer of hope for an eighth consecutive NCAA regional bid in head coach Karen Hoppa’s 15th season.
“I think there is a chance,” Hoppa said before her team left for Orange Beach. “I think we’d have a chance if we get into the championship game.”
The Tigers kept their hopes alive Monday when senior Bianca Sierra blasted home a penalty kick in overtime for a 1-0 victory over No. 7 seed LSU. It was Sierra’s first goal of the season.
“It doesn’t get any tougher than that,” Hoppa said. “You have a chance to extend your season and, for Bianca, to extend your career. She’s clutch. That’s what you need your senior captain to do – step up in those clutch moments and bury it - and she did.”
Because she did, the Tigers (8-8-4) will get their chance against Texas A&M (14-4-1). The Aggies won 3-1 at Auburn on Oct. 4.
“They’re a great team,” Hoppa said. “They’re SEC co-champions, and deservedly so. I thought they were one of the best teams we played all year. They’ve got a great offense. They’re really dangerous, and I think their defense is tough. The goalkeeping is great. It’s going to be a really tough game for us.”
Just being in the game is an accomplishment that even Hoppa thought was slipping away. But the Tigers rebounded from their 0-5 start with three consecutive ties. Then, when one loss would have meant the end of postseason hopes, they won three straight to end the regular season.
“Our team is young,” Hoppa said. “I give them a lot of credit. The character of this group is fantastic. We never faltered. We started out 0-5 in the SEC, but they stayed with it, they kept working hard and they just continue to get better every day.
“The results finally came, and now we’re playing our best soccer in November. That’s what you want.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: