Two goals from Sydney Richards helped Auburn take down the Missouri Tigers 3-2 in their SEC opener.
"It’s an important game for us against a team who is riding high right now,” said head coach Karen Hoppa before Thursday's game. "Missouri is a very hard-working club, so they're going to make us earn every opportunity, which is what conference play is all about."
After a lot of back and forth possession between the Tigers, 11 minutes into the game, senior Anna Haddock sent the ball into the back of the net for Auburn’s first goal on the scoreboard. This was Auburn’s third game in a row of scoring first.
Missouri’s Kylee Simmons tried to answer with her own shot on the goal, but was taken down by defender Jessica Osborne, a 6-foot-tall freshman, allowing Auburn to regain possession of the ball.
Rallied by an early goal, Auburn began playing more lively, passing and converting the ball with its momentum. Missouri, on the other hand, made a sloppy attempt to reset its defense. A vital player to Auburn’s defense Thursday, junior LJ Knox deflected a Simmons shot attempt, preventing a straight shot on goal. Missouri could not get any momentum going as Auburn was handled its offensive attempts.
Missouri made 10 substitutions before Auburn made any, trying to get as many fresh legs as it could while Auburn was still leading 1-0 in the first period with 20 minutes left. Within the last 20 minutes, head coach Hoppa brought out Auburn’s first two substitutions, seniors Maddie Simpson and Olivia Candelino, to give Auburn's vital players more rest going into halftime.
Thirty two minutes into the game, fifth year Richards fluidly put a ball into the top right of the goal, with assistance from Maddie Simpson, bringing Auburn to a two-goal lead over Missouri. This was her first goal since Aug. 8 when the Tigers took on Troy. Now behind two goals, Missouri’s play style became rushed until the end of the period.
Four minutes into the second period, Simmons put Missouri on the scoreboard with its first goal of the game into the bottom left of the goal. She was assisted by junior Leah Selm. About 10 minutes later, Missouri claimed a second goal to bring the game to a 2-2 tie. Leah Self scored Missouri’s second goal with assistance from senior Jenna Bartels.
“We came out of that half a little flat and gotta be better in those moments to not concede…but we’ll learn from that and it’s a lot better to learn from a win than a loss,” Hoppa said.
Later, what Auburn thought to be the winning goal was called a foul on the goalkeeper, but it gave the team momentum to keep fighting.
Auburn’s Richards scored her second goal of the game, and the winning goal with assistance from senior Mallory Mooney and freshman Maquena O’Callaghan with about 20 minutes left in the game. Richards made two more shots before the end of the game, but was unsuccessful, and the Auburn defense warded off Missouri to end the game in a 3-2 win.
"It just was really a product of the team playing well and finding good opportunities and I just tried to take advantage of them when I can,” Richards said.
Hoppa praised Richards and her performance after the game.
“We put her [Richards] back up at her left wing position where she’s probably best and you know, she shined in two big goals from the fifth year senior,” Hoppa said.
Next on the schedule, the Tigers take on Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, on Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on SEC Network.
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Ruby Hudson is a freshman from Cullman, Alabama, majoring in biomedical sciences. She joined The Plainsman in Fall 2023.