Auburn has matched their program record win total already this season, and now they get to look to the post-season. In our preview, we looked at a talented team with a very tough non-conference schedule. That tough slate really prepared the Tigers for SEC play. A 4-3 record out of conference led to a 9-2 record in the SEC. That finished second only to South Carolina’s undefeated run.
What went right?
Auburn again relied on a steady defense. Sarah Le Beau allowed just 1 goal per game with 3 clean sheets in SEC play. She was helped by the steady leadership of Kiana Clarke, and the emergence of Karli Gutsche. Clarke and Gutsche managed to play 99.75% of all possible minutes this season, with Gutsche*, a redshirt freshman mind you, managing to play every single minute of the regular season. Those three players comprised the heart of Auburn’s defense, and when you get that much playing time together, you can build a chemistry to the point where you know where your teammate is without having to look for her.
On offense, Auburn was paced by a fully-armed and operational Kristen Dodson. Her 11 goals led the team, and her 7 assists tied for the team lead. Five of her goals ended up providing Auburn’s winning goal, which also led the team. She was a constant presence at the top of the formation for the Tigers, and having her healthy for a full season was a huge boost. In addition, the Ramsier sisters were steady as always. Casie slotted home 7 goals, 4 of them game-winners, and managed 3 assists; while Brooke added 4 goals and 7 assists of her own. Bri Folds is a very promising player, as she managed 3 goals and 7 assists as a true freshman. By the end of the season, Folds played a key role both in the middle and on the wing, as she was able to make plays while opponents focused on the Ramsier sisters.
What went wrong?
Auburn struggled a bit with their non-conference schedule. As tough as it was, that was still a bit disheartening, as Auburn lost the opener to Clemson, and both games of their hosted invitational to Iowa State and USC. However, Auburn was able to rebound and finish 9-2 in SEC play. The two losses were to undefeated South Carolina and a tough 1-0 road loss to Texas A&M where the margin of victory was a PK.
If there are any issues statistically, Le Beau hasn’t actually made many saves this year. However, the saves stat can be a bit of a double-edged sword. A high save count may actually mean that your defense is a bit leaky and the keeper is forced into action too much.
As the number 2 seed, Auburn got a bye into the second round. At noon tomorrow, the Tigers will face Tennessee for the second time in less than a week. With a win, Auburn would advance to the semifinals against the winner of Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
Auburn is a shoo-in to make the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row and the tenth time in the last eleven years. With their current ranking hovering in the low teens, Auburn needs a good showing in Orange Beach to lock up hosting a game in round one of the NCAA tournament.
*-Gutsche also had the game-winning goal against Missouri on a header.