Auburn soccer traveled to Starkville, Mississippi, on Friday, Sept. 15th, for its SEC kickoff againssst Mississippi State. The Tigers fell 1-0 after Mississippi State forward Haley McWhirter hit a late game winner in the 89th minute.
“Really proud of our team’s effort tonight,” said head coach Karen Hoppa. “This is just a punishing league. We played great and battled hard. We had two starters down and had freshmen step up and play well. I’m proud of the fight they all showed. Obviously, State made a great play at the end to hand us the heartbreaking loss, but we’ve got a lot we can take away from this to make us better as we get deeper into SEC play.”
The Tigers struggled offensively all game, being outshot by Mississippi State 16-5. The Bulldogs also won the possession battle, controlling the ball 54% of the game.
For Mississippi State, the battle was won in the attacking third of the field as they held a possession rate of 20% in the attacking third and tallied up eight shots on goal. The Bulldogs attacking presence also managed to generate nine corner kicks throughout the game.
As the second half approached, the Bulldogs attack reached another gear as they generated five shots on goal in the second half and one goal which was ultimately the deciding factor in the game.
The Tigers only maintained possession in the attacking third for 15% of the game and this led to only four shots on goal over the whole match, along with only two corner kicks.
The game also featured 26 fouls combined between the two teams, including 17 in the second half and a yellow card handed out to Mississippi State midfielder Macey Hodge.
Even with Mississippi State's control in the attacking half, Tigers goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska stood out, making seven saves over the entire match. Prohaska saved 85% of the shots taken on her over the night.
Other key performances for the Tigers included midfielder Sydney Richards who managed to get two shots off through the game and one shot on goal. Along with Richards' performance, senior defender Mallory Mooney played all 90 minutes and managed to get a shot on goal along with midfielder Anna Haddock and forward Olivia Candelino.
The Bulldogs were led by Aitana Martinez-Montoya who managed to get three shots off over the whole night, including two on goal and a walk-off assist in the 89th minute to McWhirter to end the game.
McWhirter recorded four shots off throughout the game, three on goal and the match-winning goal right before the buzzer, and midfielder Macey Hodge tested Prohaska with two shots on goal over the entire match.
Bulldog's goalie Maddy Anderson also showed an impactful performance, saving all four shots on goal over the course of the match.
This defeat moves Auburn to 4-3-1 on the season, having lost two of its last three games. This victory moves the Bulldogs to 6-1-2 on the season and 3-0-1 in their last four games.
This is the Tigers first loss to Mississippi State since October 2019 and only their third loss to the Bulldogs since 2001. This puts the all-time series record at 19-6-3 in favor of the Tigers.
The Tigers look to bounce back as they return home on Sept. 21 vs Missouri as they prepare for the continuation of SEC play.
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Jack Earnhardt is a sports writer from Birmingham, Alabama, majoring in building science. He joined The Plainsman in fall 2023.