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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn defeats Mississippi State on the road

<p>Sept. 26, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Sydney Richards (14) prepares to take a shot in a match between Auburn and Texas A&amp;M in the Auburn Arena.</p>

Sept. 26, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Sydney Richards (14) prepares to take a shot in a match between Auburn and Texas A&M in the Auburn Arena.

It took a full 85 minutes and one of the better-timed runs of the season for Auburn to pull off its first SEC road win, as Sydney Richards broke off two defenders and headed a pass from Olivia Candelino into the far side of the net to seal a 1-0 win for the Tigers.

Auburn has now shut out every SEC opponent it's defeated, now while sitting at a 3-2 record in conference play after downing Mississippi State on the road Thursday.

"What a great defensive performance by our team," said Auburn head coach Karen Hoppa. "It was just a total team effort. I thought we did a great job winning second balls, a great job pressing in our attacking half. That created a lot of opportunities for us, and we finally got one to seal the game on the road."

Overtime was on the horizon in the 86th minute, as neither team had scored a goal. After crossing midfield with the ball at her feet, Anna Haddock, Auburn’s usual offensive facilitator, fed Candelino a pass to the outside of the Mississippi State goalie box and waded to the goal with Richards at her side. 

Richards was doubled up with two white-jersey defenders standing in her way, desperately trying to defend the near post of the goal as both teams prepared for the incoming cross. Candelino scooped the ball into the air and Richards simultaneously stepped to the outside of the opposing players. She caught the defenders off guard and then hit the ball with just the right amount of contact to send it to the far side of the goal, far out of reach of the Mississippi State goalie.

"I just knew I had to go for it, so I jumped as high as I could and got a little something on it. The goalie didn't see it coming, and that was that," Richards said. "This was especially big for us because we just needed it for confidence on the road. It was a good win."

Richards is now third on the team in goals scored after knocking in her second game-winner and her fourth overall goal of the season. It pushes the Tigers to an unbeaten 2-0-0 record against SEC West opponents in Mississippi State and Texas A&M. 

Richards also fired off an additional two shots, while Haddock and Candelino added another assist to each of their totals, tying for most assists on the team with five each. 

Auburn held the Bulldogs to just seven shots throughout the 90-minute contest while maintaining the team’s fifth clean sheet of the season, as the Tiger backline made a quick rebound back to its usual lock-down defense after allowing a season-high three goals to South Carolina last week.

Backing up the defense behind seniors M.E. Craven and Alyssa Malonson, Auburn goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska made four clutch saves to keep the score level, eventually paying off as Richards landed the game-clinching goal in the matches’ final minutes.

"We play defense as a team, and the backline is really coming together," Prohaska said of the team’s third conference shutout of the season.

"I think we're on a high, but we know we have to come back down because we have to take care of business on Sunday," Prohaska said. "This is just a part of our quest for the West. Two wins down, but a lot more to go."

With Thursday’s win, Auburn now leads the all-time series in Starkville, improving to a 6-5-1 record against the Bulldogs on the road. 

After playing back-to-back away games at South Carolina and Mississippi, the Tigers will be back in Auburn to host a home match against LSU (8-4-0, 1-3-0 SEC) on Sunday at 2 p.m. CST at the Auburn Soccer Complex.

Larry Robinson | Photo Editor

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. 

Twitter: @ReportingLarry

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