Auburn advances to SEC Tournament semifinal with 2-1 win vs. South Carolina

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – Auburn soccer advanced to its first SEC Tournament semifinal since 2016 with a 2-1 win against South Carolina Tuesday night at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.

The win marks Auburn’s first against the Gamecocks since 2012 and sets up a semifinal showdown with top-seeded Arkansas (15-3-0) Thursday at 5 p.m. CT.

“What a great performance by our team,” head coach Karen Hoppa said. “It was a total team effort. I thought our speed of play was outstanding. We scored two great goals, created a lot of opportunities. In the end, after they got the penalty kick, we stood strong defensively.”

The win is the Tigers (12-5-1) second result against South Carolina (11-6-1) in as many SEC Tournament matchups, previously advancing on penalty kicks against the Gamecocks in 2015.

M.E. Craven and Sydney Richards accounted for the scoring in the contest, while four Tigers in Anna Haddock, Rocio Sanders, Olivia Candelino and Marissa Arias pitched in with assists.

“It was just a great feeling for all of us,” Craven said. “Our possession was finally starting to come together. I think it was the best possession we’ve played, so it was just exciting.”

On the other end, sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska and the Auburn back line held South Carolina scoreless in the run of play, only conceding a penalty kick to allow the Gamecocks to draw within one.

“It was great, but this is just the beginning,” Prohaska said of the win. “My back line was excellent. They had my back and I had theirs. That’s really what makes a great back line and a great goalkeeper, when we understand each other and can pick each other up.”

With the clock winding down toward halftime, Auburn took a 1-0 lead on Craven’s third goal of the year. The senior defender got a right foot on a ball at the six-yard line and snuck it past the South Carolina goalkeeper to start the scoring. Haddock served the free kick to the feet of Sanders, and Craven finished it off.

Continuing its momentum out of halftime, the Tigers pressed forward to start the second stanza and fired off three shots in the first 12 minute after tallying just two in the first half. The team’s fourth shot found the back of the net as Richards buried one after the goalkeeper came off her line. Candelino and Arias played a nice give and go, and Arias ultimately laid it off to Richards, who finished with the right from the top of the box.

“It was huge,” Richards said of taking a 2-0 lead. “We really needed it. We wouldn’t have won that game without it. It’s good that we had the second one to cushion (the lead).”

After taking a 2-0 lead, Auburn was called for a foul inside the box at the 71-minute mark, and South Carolina cut the deficit in half with the penalty-kick goal. However, Prohaska and the Tigers defensive unit buckled down, allowing just one shot in the final 19 minutes of action.

Prohaska recorded her first save on a diving attempt less than four minutes into the contest and ultimately tallied five saves while making a number of other plays that didn’t show up on the scoresheet.

“She was outstanding, one of her best performances so far in her young career,” Hoppa added of Prohaska.

Auburn was efficient in its attack as the Tigers put three of eight shots on goal and two past the South Carolina goalkeeper.

Six Tigers logged all 90 minutes and 16 players ultimately saw action in the contest.

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