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Cue the cheers: Auburn soccer returns to NCAA tourney
Nov. 10, 2014

Auburn players react to seeing their name pop up on the NCAA selection show

By Charles Goldberg

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AUBURN, Ala.  There was a lot of noise and nervous energy even before the NCAA Selection Show came on, but when the TV said it was time to announce who was going to make this year's soccer tournament, everybody had to listen.

Listen to the announcement of the first eight teams. And the next eight teams. And the next eight teams. And through 48 teams.

"One bracket to go..." said the TV.

And on it went until the 53rd team was shown, that being Auburn, that being a trip to Florida Gulf Coast in Ft. Myers for an NCAA Tournament opener at 4:30 p.m. Central time  Saturday.

Cue the yelling, for the Auburn's soccer team exploded into cheering when it saw its name come up on the bracket.

"Just enjoy it. You worked hard. I'm really proud of you," coach Karen Hoppa told her players.

Better cue the airplane tickets, because Auburn busily started working the reservation desk while the NCAA show was still on. 

Hoppa told her players not to worry about the other teams yet. "Don't even look at the rest of the bracket. It doesn't matter," she said.
Hoppa knows this NCAA routine. This will be her 13th trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last 16 years at Auburn. She said the cheering for the show was as genuine as could be with so many freshmen mixed in with veterans.

"This one was a little bit more special because we didn't make it last year," Hoppa said. "Our team has worked so hard for two years. To see the pure joy...that was one of the loudest celebrations when our team popped up, even though we knew we going to get in based on our resume'. The reward of seeing those girls so happy, and being rewarded for all the hard work they put in, was worth it."

Auburn starts NCAA play with an 11-6-3 record. Florida Gulf Coast is 17-3 and is the Atlantic Sun Conference champion. 

Hoppa said Auburn will be ready.

"They were disappointed last year, but they did hang tough and had a good end of the 2013 season, and they carried that momentum into this year, and they played with that fire all year long," she said.

"We've improved every weekend. I think we're playing our best soccer right now."

Tori Ball has seen it firsthand.

"The momentum is great," Ball said. "We started playing soccer, and winning, the way we wanted to toward the end of the season. Coach always talks about how we want to play our best soccer toward tournament time, and that's what we're doing."

A hiccup occurred the last time out when Auburn lost to Kentucky 2-1 in the SEC Tournament. 

"We learned a ton from that game," Hoppa said. "It was tournament time, it was a young team, it was jitters, and it was delayed from the overtime from the other game. It was one of those situations our players hadn't really been in before."

This young team doesn't have much NCAA experience. Only eight players have been to this show.

"We're really going to rely on that group for their experience," Hoppa said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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