LSU and Auburn both trudged through off the pitch as the horn blared to signal the end of the second half.
All of the Tigers knew their job wasn’t finished yet, as either team’s goal was left untouched after 90 full minutes of play.
Pumped up off the energy from its bench, Auburn lined up to take a corner kick that proved to be last of the match, as the ball was popped into air by seniors M.E. Craven and Alyssa Malonson, before being buried into the net by Marissa Arias.
“Just trying to finish every opportunity, being greedy in the box, just finishing the little things. It pops out, gotta put it away,” Arias said of her game-winning goal.
LSU hasn’t defeated Auburn in soccer since the 2010 season, a decade-long streak that was extended by Sunday’s 1-0 win. Auburn has also yet to be scored on by the Bayou Bengals in six consecutive games, with 2016 being the last year LSU landed a ball into the net against the Tigers.
Auburn opened the gate with high energy against LSU. The team seemed to learn from its previously slow SEC starts as Auburn maintained much of the possession in the first 20 minutes of the match.
Sydney Richards saw many of the orange and blue’s first scoring chances, as she was repeatedly beating her defender and breaking for the goal early on in the game. LSU’s lone shot in the first half was taken in the first 11 minutes, as the Tigers’ defense chomped down and dispossessed almost every LSU attack that came its way.
A shift in Auburn’s back line proved to be effective, as Alyssa Malonson rotated to the middle of the line to account for Madeline Moore’s injury from a few games ago.
Malonson’s presence was felt throughout the match as she skirted around midfielders with ease and bolted through the defense like a zig-zagged lightning bolt when she made a run on offense. A hard tackle almost took her out of the game, as she struggled to regain her strength while leaned over on the astroturf.
Malonson wasn’t going to pull herself off the pitch though, finally rising to her feet and waving off the substitute that was prepping to take her place.
“It’s something that’s really grown through [Malonson's] career," said Auburn head coach Karen Hoppa. "She is fast and dynamic and exciting, technically, but not someone you think of that’s the physical, gritty kind. That today is something that she's really matured into. Today she had both. If we take her out, I don’t know what we do on the back line."
Auburn’s defense got back to its top form on Sunday, holding the LSU Tigers to just one shot on goal in the 93-minute contest.
To sophomore goalie Maddie Prohaska and the Tigers’ final line, soccer is like a game of chess.
“I think the defensive unit is coming together nicely, all the way from our forwards to our back line,” Prohaska said. “I think a lot of people don’t notice how much defensive work forwards do but it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed when make a big time stop.”
“The biggest thing is communication. I kinda view myself as the chess player in a chess match and the team is kinda my pieces, so I kinda take that and move them how I need to to prevent even a shot to go on frame. Everyone communicates and listens well so I think we all make a great team.”
Anna Haddock almost added another goal to her team-leading count as she sliced up the field into the final attacking third, but the knuckleball shot she got off was saved by a fully-outstretched LSU goalkeeper.
Tensions were high, as the Tiger teams combined for 11 fouls, one of which put Auburn’s Kylie Bechard on the bench, after she was tackled to the ground while advancing on LSU’s goal. With Bechard down for the count, Arias knew she had to pick up the slack for the injured Tiger.
“The thing that got me through this game was thinking about my teammate Kylie Bechard," Arias said. "Just trying to play the way she would play so just really playing for her, and just sticking with it. Fighting for the ones that can’t be on the field. That’s what keeps me going honestly,” Arias said.
Auburn (10-3) will have a full week off to rest and prepare to face the Florida Gators (3-8-3) at home next Sunday on Oct. 17. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. CST at the Auburn Soccer Complex.
“Great to get the result. Really proud of how we just gutted that win out,” Hoppa said.
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Larry is a senior studying journalism with a minor in sociology. He is from Enterprise, Alabama and is in his third year with The Auburn Plainsman.