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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn looks to defeat Florida for first time since 2017

<p>Oct. 10, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn celebrates as an LSU player looks on after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime in a match between Auburn and LSU at the Auburn Soccer Complex.</p>

Oct. 10, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn celebrates as an LSU player looks on after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime in a match between Auburn and LSU at the Auburn Soccer Complex.

Already tied with Arkansas for second place in the SEC West, a win over Florida on Sunday could boost momentum for Auburn moving into the week of its matchup against No. 1 Arkansas.

But before Arkansas, the Tigers have to handle Florida at home.

Auburn and its goalkeeper, Maddie Prohaska, are tied for first in the SEC for number of shutouts. Prohaska has led the Tigers to six shutouts en route to its 10-3 record and have them well-within reach NCAA tournament bid.

Sunday’s opponent isn’t on the same successful tract as the ranked Tigers. Sitting at a 3-8-3 record with just two SEC wins on the season, the Gators are guaranteed a spot in the lower middle of the SEC East standings at the conclusion of the regular season.

While lacking a numerous amount of wins this season, Florida has seen recent success against the Tigers, winning the last three games dating back to 2017.

Auburn will look to change its fortunes against the Gators this year.

Giving up 16.4 shots a game and scoring less than half as many goals as its opponents throughout the season, Florida lets its opponents lay it on thick, while not scoring that often themselves.

Opposing teams average 1.79 goals a game against the Gators, even lower than the Tigers’ scoring average that sits at 2.31 goals a match.

Sydney Richards has been inches away from a goal in a few matches and seems to have taken the reigns for most ball time from the Tigers’ leading scorer, Anna Haddock. That is, with Haddock setting herself up in positions to pick her shots out instead of being the primary ball handler on the offense. One of these chances are sure to pay off for Richards as she continuously takes on opposing defenders and goalies all alone and all at once if need be.

This week’s Top Drawer Team of the Week honoree from the Tigers is senior Alyssa Malonson, who locked down the Tigers’ back line in back-to-back shutouts last week and then assisted on the game-winning goal in Sunday’s match against LSU.

Malonson continues to perform at a high level, proving her worth as a NWSL draft selection from the year prior. Her presumptive start this weekend will tie the Auburn all-time record for consecutive starts at 91.

Kit Loferski is one bright spot for the Gators, as she leads the team with four goals. One fatal flaw in her offensive game is her amount of shots taken, which sits at just five shots in the team’s last five matches played. 

Florida has scored just 11 goals in 14 games. Unless Loferski or another forward wakes up with a hot foot against the Tigers, just two or three shots will spell trouble for the visiting Gators.

Auburn’s aspirations of winning the SEC regular season is right within its grasp if the team can clean up a below .500 Florida squad at home before shifting focus to the No. 1 team in the country.

Kickoff between Auburn and Florida is set for 12 p.m. CST on Oct. 17 at the Auburn Soccer Complex. Live streaming will be broadcast on ESPNU.

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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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