In its penultimate home game of the 2022 campaign, Auburn suffered a form of defeat that is becoming all too familiar to the Tigers- a one-goal loss. For the fourth time this season, Auburn lost by the slimmest of margins, falling 1-0 to No. 18 Tennessee at the Auburn Soccer Complex on Thursday.
"Overall, we played a great game," said head coach Karen Hoppa. "Tennessee is a great team, and we went toe-to-toe with them. The difference was they finished on one of their chances and we didn't. It's heartbreaking to play so well and not get the result."
Auburn (6-5-5, 2-5-1 SEC) failed to score despite recording 16 shots, its most in a game since having 19 shots against Samford on September 11.
“We created a ton of chances - 16 shots against a top-25 team, we just couldn’t get one on frame,” Hoppa said.
In 16 games this season, Auburn has been shutout in six. Each of its single-goal losses came by a score of 1-0, including Thursday’s defeat.
Goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska again impressed, recording eight saves, bringing her total to 54 this season, tied for second in the SEC.
“Tennessee’s a really tough and athletic team and sometimes it’s really hard to match them,” Prohaska said. “We did our best and we sometimes matched their formation and changed a little bit to keep them on their toes. Obviously, they got a break at one point but we just keep rolling - the backs have been excellent this year and we just have to keep that mentality going.”
After a slow first half that saw Auburn only attempt four shots, the Tigers seemed to have new life out of the halftime break. The Tigers attempted 12 shots in the second half, outshooting the Lady Volunteers in the second 45.
“We went back to the starting lineup, went back to the original game plan,” Hoppa said. “I thought that really helped us. I thought our offense was really clicking there for quite a long stretch in that second half and it’s unfortunate not to get a goal from it.”
Tennessee (10-3-2, 6-1-1 SEC) had 19 shots, with nine on goal, but it was not until their 19th and final attempt that the Lady Volunteers broke through, scoring on Kameron Simmonds's goal in the 74th minute to put Tennessee up to stay.
“We had three players around the ball and didn’t come out with it and that’s always a bad sign,” said Hoppa. “The kid hit a great finish, I think it dinged off the post even. So great job by Tennessee, credit them for the finish.”
Now, as the final week of the regular season begins, Auburn will have to battle to qualify for the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are currently in last place in the SEC West with games against fourth-place LSU and first-place Alabama upcoming.
“The quote we’ve been working with recently is ‘Do or Die’ because, at this point, you need those points to make it to the tournament and make it to NCAAs,” Prohaska said. “This team has a lot of grit and we grinded until the end tonight, so we’re going to take these last two games and hopefully get six points.”
It will be a quick turnaround for Auburn as the Tigers travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU on Sunday.
“We’ve got to regroup and put all our focus on LSU,” Hoppa said. “It’s devastating to lose this way but we still control our own destiny for the postseason with the two games we’ve got left so that’s got to be our focus.”
Sunday’s game between Auburn and LSU will begin at 1 p.m. CT from LSU Soccer Stadium and will be streamed live on SEC Network+.
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Matthew is a junior from Huntsville, Alabama majoring in journalism. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.