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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn to lace up against Arkansas in SEC Tournament semifinals for first time since 2016

<p>Nov. 2, 2021; Orange Beach, Alabama; Anna Haddock (4) strikes a free kick against South Carolina in the second round of the SEC Tournament.</p>

Nov. 2, 2021; Orange Beach, Alabama; Anna Haddock (4) strikes a free kick against South Carolina in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- The Tigers are ready to lace up for another redemption game.

Auburn (9-4-1) advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2016, where it will face 1st seeded Arkansas (15-3) for the second time this season at 5 p.m. CST. 

Auburn previously lost at home to the Razorbacks 2-0 just a few weeks ago.

That previous matchup is hot on Auburn head coach Karen Hoppa’s mind as she’s most excited about just one thing.

“Just an opportunity to have a second chance at them,” Hoppa said. “We lost to them at home, they’re one of the best teams in the country. We’ll come in as a clear underdog and it’s gonna be a great opportunity for a second chance for our team.”

The Tigers recorded their first victory against South Carolina since 2012 to increase their overall all-time record at the tournament to 15-22-5.

If the Tigers can down the Razorbacks at the beach, Auburn will advance to its first SEC Tournament finals since 2012. Auburn won it all a year prior in 2011 when it struck down Florida 3-2 in the finals for the program's only SEC Tournament title.

Auburn impact players

Sydney Richards scored her seventh goal of the season off a Marissa Arias assist to put her Tigers up 2-0 over the Gamecocks in the quarterfinals, her third game-winning goal this season. Richards and sophomore Anna Haddock have accounted for 15 of the Tigers' last 18 goals.

Aside from one of top performers in the attack group, senior defender M.E. Craven leads all Auburn's non-attacking players this season with three goals and nine points after stabbing in the Tigers’ first goal against South Carolina.

19-year-old Maddie Prohaska had five clutch saves against the Gamecocks, letting only a penalty kick slip past her for South Carolina’s only score of the game.

Prohaska has been playing with a lot of confidence and credits her back line's communication for leading conference in shutouts.

"My back line was excellent, they had my back and I had theirs," Prohaska said. "I mean, that’s really what makes a great back line and a great goalkeeper, is when they kinda understand each other and pick each other up when they need to be brought up. And I think we’re kinda at that place where we kinda understand each other before we understand ourself sometimes. “

Taking a look at the Razorbacks

Arkansas was riding the second longest unbeaten streak in all of NCAA before falling to LSU in the final of the match of the season. The Razorbacks got back at the Bayou Bengals in quick fashion as the two teams faced off in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament where Arkansas won 2-1 to advance and face its next set of Tigers.

The Razorbacks made it all the way to the finals in 2019’s tournament while being named back-to-back All-Time SEC Champions in 2019 and 2020 with the most points out all 14 SEC teams.

The Razorbacks’ offense is headed by the talented Anna Podojil, who leads the scoring count with thirteen goals. She’s got quite a few high-level honors under her belt, including: United Soccer Coaches All-American First Team (2021), TopDrawerSoccer Best XI First Team (2021) and SEC Forward of the Year (2020). She scored both of Arkansas’ goals against LSU in the quarters and also knocked in a goal when Arkansas came to the Plains and slipped past Auburn on the road.

Auburn is currently on a seven loss streak at the feet of the Razorbacks, but lead the overall series 15-13-2. The Tigers' last victory against the Hogs was in 2016.

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The only team matched with Auburn on the defensive and goalkeeping side of the ball is Arkansas, who ties the Tigers and Prohaska with seven shutouts. Arkansas’ goalie Hannah Warner has the second best goals against average in the SEC at 0.84. Prohaska is third in the conference with a 0.92 average.

Auburn and Arkansas battle in the SEC Tournament semifinals at 5 p.m. CST at the Orange Beach Sportsplex, where the game will be broadcast on the SECN. The winner advances to the finals to face the winner of the match between Ole Miss and Tennessee. 

Follow The Plainsman Sports and @ReportingLarry for live coverage of the event.

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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