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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn drops SEC semifinal to Arkansas

Nov. 4, 2021; Orange Beach, Alabama; Marissa Arias (19) fights through contact in a match between Auburn and Arkansas in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Nov. 4, 2021; Orange Beach, Alabama; Marissa Arias (19) fights through contact in a match between Auburn and Arkansas in the SEC Tournament semifinals.

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- The Tigers' extended stay at Orange Beach was cut short on Thursday night when Auburn (12-6-1) fell 5-1 to Arkansas (16-3) in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. It was Auburn's first trip to the semis since the 2016 season.

“Really proud of them. We had some freshman have to step up into some important roles when we lost Craven and Haddock, and we gave them everything we got," said Auburn head coach Karen Hoppa. "I think we learned a lot. Now, rest up and get excited about NCAAs."

Auburn just couldn’t catch a break against the Razorbacks. 

In the sixth minute, a shot by Anna Haddock appeared to possibly cross the goal line as it was saved up high by Arkansas goalkeeper Hannah Werner. An official’s review concluded that it didn’t cross the line or that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the no-goal call. A close-miss that would've put the Tigers up in the early stages of a highly important elimination game.

In the 20th minute, one of the key pieces to Auburn’s backline was lost when senior M.E. Craven went down with an apparent lower-body injury.

Then, Anna Haddock went down in the 41st minute.

Neither Tiger came back to the pitch in the second half.

“They both obviously weren’t cleared to play in the second half and I’m hoping since we got eight days since we play again, we’ll have a chance to get them back on the field Friday night for the first round of the NCAAs," Hoppa said of her two injured players.

Auburn was back and forth with the fifth-ranked team in the country for most of the first half before allowing a goal in the 41st minute, right before Haddock’s injury.

The Razorbacks settled into Auburn’s final third with numbers and found an open player sitting in space, ripping off a shot that went upper 90 and slipped past Maddie Prohaska’s outstretched hand.

The Razorbacks gained a lot of momentum heading into halftime after the goal and came out of the gate with high intensity in the latter 45. Kayla McKeon hit another upper 90 shot in the 46th that Prohaska couldn’t reach in time, as the Razorbacks increased their lead to two.

Just 90 seconds later, freshman Sydnie Thibodaux got the Tigers on the board in the 48th minute with a screaming upper 90 that just edged past Warner’s fingertips. It was her first goal of the season and her first in a Tiger uniform.

“Yeah you know she’s gotten better every week throughout the year and we’re really confident putting her in the game," Hoppa said about Thibodaux. "Obviously got some veterans in front of her but, you know, I loved seeing her get on the board because she’s been playing great and we knew she was capable of doing that. We see it in practice every day. So yeah, super excited about her future."

After the Auburn goal, the Tigers had a few opportunities to level the score, but headers were hit too hard in the box and shots just couldn't find their mark on the goal.

Arkansas started laying it on thick after that. Auburn pushed numbers forward to attack more aggressively but left the already thin backline vulnerable, allowing Arkansas to get in an offensive groove and drop three more on the Tigers in a 10-minute succession. By the end of regulation, the score was 5-1.

"Hard to judge without our two best players," Hoppa said of this match compared to Auburn's home loss to Arkansas a few weeks back. "But I think we’ll learn a lot from this game, we know they got a really good shot at being a No. 1 seed in the country. So, no better preparation for the NCAA Tournament than playing one of the top teams."

Arkansas advances to the SEC Tournament finals for the sixth year in a row, where it’s fallen in the last five final matchups dating back to 2016.

Auburn will have just a little over a week to rest and prepare for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, which begins just one week from Friday. Selection day for the tournament will be on Monday, Nov. 8 at 3:30 p.m. CST and will be live broadcast on

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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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