Who’s in the mood for some football?! The American (relative) successes at the World Cups over the past two years have helped cause an explosion of interest in soccer in the US. I freely admit I’m one of the ones that it swept up along the way. Three years ago I would watch USA when I happened to catch the game on as I was flipping channels. A few days ago I got up at 6:30 AM Pacific Time to watch the beginning of the English Premier League season. I picked an EPL team, an MLS team (until #MLSAtlanta2017 anyway), and began watching every USA match I could find. It’s only right that my fervor also passes on to my alma mater.
There are subtle differences you’ll notice when watching an NCAA Soccer game. The clock counts down in the manner of other American sports, rather than up to 90 like most FIFA sanctioned matches. The clock can also be stopped by the referee, and it stops after a goal is scored. Substitutions are unlimited, and players can re-enter in the second half if they are subbed off in the first. To me, it gives the game a more "American" feel. Honestly, it can be a bit of a gateway to soccer for fans that have trouble picking up all of the differences between it and traditional American sports.
So enough about the game itself. This is an Auburn site. How do they look this year? Well let’s take a look
History: 237-177-42 (99-84-23 SEC) all-time. 12 NCAA Tournament appearances (all under current head coach Karen Hoppa, who returns for her 17th season at the helm). 19 SEC Tournament appearances (1 championship in 2011, the only time a West Division team ever won the tournament). Have won at least 10 games in 8 of the last 9 seasons. Have also beaten arch-rival Alabama in 8 of the last 9 seasons.
Last season: 12-7-3 (5-3-3 in SEC play). Finished 6th in the SEC. Rebounded from an 0-2-3 start in conference play to win 5 out of 6, with the only loss coming to 8th ranked Texas A&M on the road. Lost 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament to Kentucky. Advanced to 2nd round of NCAA tournament, beating Florida Gulf Coast in the first round. Eliminated by an 87th minute goal against Texas Tech (2-1).
SEC Coaches have picked Auburn to finish 7th in the SEC.
Goals – Brook Ramsier, Cassie Ramsier, Courtney Schell (4)
Assists – Kristen Dodson (10)
Saves – Alyse Scott (76)
Minutes – Kala Faulkner and Alyse Scott (2067, that’s every minute of last season)
Auburn does lose their leading scorer from a season ago (Tori Ball had 5), but they return the Ramsier sisters and several other productive offensive players. 27 of Auburn’s 36 goals last year were put home by returning players, and five of the top 6 scorers return as well. Also returning is the first team keeper from last season, Alyse Soctt. Scott started every single game between the posts for the Tigers, allowing just 1 goal per game.
What to expect:
Auburn returns plenty of experienced players, brings in 11 talented freshmen, and most importantly is still coached by the best head coach in its history in Karen Hoppa. Auburn may not have enough to challenge Florida or Texas A&M for the top of the conference, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers finish in the top third. Kala Faulkner is a rock in the backline, and there is plenty of talent up top. If Alyse Scott builds on her great sophomore season, then a high finish in the SEC and a berth in the NCAA tournament can be expected.
We all remember how fun the softball run through the tournament was. Part of the fun was that we could watch nearly every single game last season. The same is true for soccer. Most games are either on Friday night or Sunday afternoon, and will either be on TV or available for streaming. Even better, if you’re in town early for football, or if you stay over the weekend, you can usually catch at least one game. Admission is free, so why not see Auburn play the world’s game in person? The home opener comes against UAB on August 28th. The Tigers start the season on a California road swing with UC Irivine on Friday at 2 PM Central, and CSU-Long Beach on Sunday at 1 PM Central.