As the last seconds of the season ticked down on the scoreboard in the Auburn Soccer Complex with another zero on Auburn's side of the scoreboard, Tiger fans slowly filed down the stairs and to the parking lots.
Family members of the team made their way to the sidelines to console the team while Auburn head coach Karen Hoppa hugged M.E. Craven just 30 yards away after her last game in the Orange and Blue.
Auburn soccer held its Senior Night on the final game of the season as the Tigers matched up against No. 3 Alabama. The Tigers fell just short of post-season play as they lost 1-0 against the Tide after they ended the scoreless affair with the decisive blow with 3:40 left to go in the match.
Auburn’s postseason fate was ended when Alabama forward Riley Tanner’s scored a late header that sailed high over everyone in the box and into the net for her fifth goal of the season. Kat Rogers, who ranks second on the tide in assists, sent a curling ball into the box right to Tanner for her seventh assist on the season.
Meanwhile, the offensive struggles persisted. Auburn was shut out for the eighth time this season behind only three shots on goal versus Alabama. Auburn scored only six goals in 10 SEC matchups in 2022.
Auburn’s final record of 6-6-6 will tie Hoppa’s lowest win total at Auburn dating back to her first season as head coach when the team went 6-13-0. This season will also mark the first time in Hoppa’s history at Auburn that the team will not play in the postseason.
“We just didn’t finish. We had the chances, quality chances, and we couldn’t finish,” Hoppa said. “We had to win to get to postseason, so we pushed all the players forward at the end of the match, and unfortunate to give up the goal late, but a tie wouldn’t have helped us.”
Auburn honored seniors Brooke Berdan, M.E. Craven, Hailey Whitaker, Sabrina McNeill and Grace Sklopan. Whitaker ended her career at Auburn with the second most starts in the program’s history (84) behind her former teammate, Alyssa Malonson (97).
“(Hailey) has been such an important part of our since day one, on and off the field,” Hoppa said. “She’s a small person, big personality and plays big and been such a special part of our program and we’re really going to miss her.”
The crowd at the Auburn Soccer Complex did their best to will the Tigers to victory. The fans from both teams brought energy throughout the game by exchanging chants, rumbling the bleachers, and voicing their displeasure when the ref did not agree with them.
“I appreciate the Auburn family that showed up tonight, the crowd was unbelievable, the atmosphere was electric, and I think it really helped get a little extra step in our players’ feet,” Hoppa said.
Alabama finishes the regular season 17-1-1 with a perfect 10-0 record in conference play -- the first team to go perfect in SEC play since South Carolina did so in 2016.
Auburn goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska saved five of the six shots she faced on target, proving yet again to be a giant between the posts. Prohaska finishes the season tied for second in goals against average with .074 and seventh best shutout total with seven shutouts on the season.
The SEC Tournament will begin on Sunday at the Ashton Brosnaham Soccer Complex in Pensacola, FL. While the Tide will try to continue their dominance, the Tigers will start the offseason early and hope to regroup and return in better form next season.
“We appreciate the support. The crowd has showed up for us all year and we hope they come back next year, because we’ll be back better than ever,” Hoppa said.
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Chris Mendoza is a senior from Huntsville, Ala. majoring in journalism and minoring in sports coaching. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2022.