No. 13 Auburn’s comeback bid falls short at No. 17 South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 13 Auburn fought valiantly after falling in a 3-0 deficit on the road, but the Tigers’ comeback bid ultimately came up just short in a 3-2 loss at No. 17 South Carolina Friday.  

“Unfortunately, we made some mistakes early in each half and a very experienced South Carolina team capitalized on those mistakes,” head coach Karen Hoppa said. “Our team did a great job of battling back into the game and had some chances to tie it up.

“We need to learn from these mistakes quickly before we go on the road again next week,” Hoppa added.

Alyssa Malonson got the scoring started for the Tigers with a goal in the 55th minute, and Marissa Arias cut the deficit to one 30 minutes later to make the final five minutes interesting. However, Auburn (8-3-0, 2-2-0 SEC) was left looking for the equalizer as South Carolina (9-2-0, 4-0-0 SEC) bled out the clock.

Along with goals from Malonson and Arias, M.E. Craven and Anna Haddock also got on the scoresheet with assists in the contest.

South Carolina capitalized on its early chances and took a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of the contest. The Gamecocks started the scoring by finding the back of the net off a corner kick in the fourth minute.

The Tigers fought for the equalizer with a pair of strong runs from Olivia Candelino and Sydney Richards in the middle portion of the half. However, South Carolina countered and doubled its lead in the 20th minute.

Auburn nearly cut into the deficit minutes after conceding the second goal as Richards got her head on a corner kick in the 25th minute, but the South Carolina goalkeeper made a diving deflection on the attempt.

The Tigers began to apply high pressure and controlled the majority of possession in the final 20 minutes of the first half but failed to break down the South Carolina defense prior to halftime.

Auburn played a big ball off the opening kick of the second half and controlled possession in the final third for the opening minute, but South Carolina countered quickly and extended its lead to 3-0 in the 47th minute.

The Tigers cut into South Carolina’s lead as Malonson got on the receiving end of Haddock’s free kick that Craven headed toward frame and put it in the back of the net. Making her 88th consecutive start, the goal was the second of the season for Malonson and the fourth of her career.

Malonson continued to put pressure on the home team as she made a run up the left flank and played a cross that a Gamecock defender failed to clear and ultimately found Arias at the top of the box. The redshirt sophomore took care of the rest with a left-footed strike inside the far side netting. The goal was the fifth of the season for Arias, all of which have come in the last six contests.

Despite the valiant effort in a top-25 matchup on the road, it was too little, too late for Auburn. The Tigers connected passes in the final third on a trio of occasions in the last four minutes of the game, but the South Carolina defense ultimately did its job.

Seventeen Tigers saw action in the contest, include four freshman who saw meaningful minutes in a tough road test.

Auburn remains on the road to take on Mississippi State (3-4-3, 1-2-1 SEC) Thursday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. CT in Starkville, Miss.

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