Trailing by a goal with five minutes to play, the Auburn soccer team showed resiliency on the road as the Tigers battled No. 21 Tennessee (9-0-1, 1-0-1 SEC) to a 1-1 draw Thursday night at Regal Soccer Stadium.
“I’m really happy with the way this team grew into the game,” head coach Karen Hoppa said. “We started out a little slow, but ended up dominating the stat sheet in the end.”
As a team, Auburn (4-3-2, 1-0-1 SEC) outshot Tennessee, 20-15, and recorded seven shots on goal to the Volunteers’ three. With the draw, the Tigers have now tallied four points in SEC play against a pair of ranked opponents.
Freshman forward Jaelyn Gadson came through in the clutch for the Orange and Blue as she scored her first collegiate goal on a header off the crossbar in the 85th minute to even the score, 1-1. Senior midfielder Ellie Leek was credited with the assist.
“Jaelyn has gotten better every week.” Hoppa added. “She was out for much of the summer with an injury and was a bit limited when we started. Now she’s getting healthier and better every week. She played really valuable minutes today in addition to getting that huge goal right when we needed it.”
Tennessee got on the scoreboard in the 31st minute and took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
After Auburn maintained possession in the attacking third for a large part of the second half, Gadson corralled a near-goal from Leek that hit off the crossbar and headed it into the back of the net to send the match into overtime. Gadson’s goal was just the third allowed by the Volunteers this season.
Both defenses battled fatigue in the two 10-minute overtime periods but held each other scoreless en route to the draw.
Despite all four members of the backline and goalkeeper Sarah Le Beau playing more than 100 minutes in the match, the Auburn defense stayed strong and held a potent Tennessee offense to the lone first-half goal. The Tigers have only allowed one goal in 200 minutes of SEC action.
“Our defense is the strength of our team right now,” Hoppa said. “The back four has been tremendous and Sarah (Le Beau) has been really solid. I give a lot of credit to the center backs – Carolina Bado and Sarah Houchin – who did a tremendous job against one of the best players in the country.”
Following their first SEC road match of 2017, the Tigers return to the Auburn Soccer Complex to host Kentucky Sunday at 2 p.m. CT.