TUSCALOOSA — Auburn extended its record win streak in the Iron Bowl of Soccer to seven as the Tigers defeated Alabama, 3-2, in double overtime Sunday afternoon at the Alabama Soccer Stadium.
Tied 2-2 with the clock ticking towards 0:00, freshman Sydney Richards put the game-winner inside the far left post in the 108th minute. The goal marked Richards’ fourth of the season, including her second game-winner.
“It felt incredible,” Richards said. “I was thinking, ‘Just don’t hit the post and stay composed’. It was good to watch it go in. It’s a really good (turning) point for us I think.”
Along with its seventh straight win in the rivalry series, the Tigers (7-8-2, 4-5-0 SEC) have earned a result in 17 of the last 19 contests against the Crimson Tide (9-5-3, 4-3-2 SEC), including wins 12 of the last 13 matchups.
“Our backs were against the wall, and to come into your biggest rival in a must-win situation is a really difficult challenge,” head coach Karen Hoppa said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way the team stepped up to that challenge.
“When we recruited (Sydney), we knew she was a goal scorer,” Hoppa added. “For her to score a goal of that magnitude in her freshman year is a massive accomplishment and something that Sydney is going to build on.”
Hailey Whitaker started the scoring and gave Auburn the halftime lead with a goal in the 32nd minute. Rocio Sanders also found the back of the net to reclaim the lead in the second half and account for the Tigers’ scoring in the back-and-forth affair.
Whitaker pitched in with a pair of assists in the contest and recorded a career high four points. Sanders and Richards also added assists to go along with their goals and registered three points, while Kori Locksley turned in her second assist of the season.
“It’s such a great feeling knowing we’ve gone all four years as seniors,” senior captain Jesse Gerow said. “Not many teams can say they’ve done that. It’s such a huge rivalry. To be able to come out and say that we’ve had the trophy for seven years, it’s unreal.”
There’s nothing like it.”
Whitaker got the scoring started when the Birmingham native ran down a pass from Richards down the left side, cut to her right and struck a right-footed shot from 25 yards out that fit in a tight space between the leaping goalkeeper and crossbar. The goal was Whitaker’s third of the season.
After Alabama tied the score in the 59th minute, Auburn answered less than three minutes later to put the Tigers back in front. Whitaker played it to Locksley inside the box, and Locksley laid it off to Sanders, who finished as the shot hit off the crossbar and deflected off the goalkeeper’s back, marking Sanders’ first goal of the season.
Alabama ultimately fought back and scored its second equalizer in the 69th minute, but goalkeeper Kate Hart and the Auburn back line held off the Crimson Tide attack in the final 20 minutes of regulation and nearly 20 minutes of overtime.
Twelve of Alabama’s 29 shots in the contest where on frame, but only two found the back of the net thanks to a career-high 10 saves from Hart. Junior captain Sarah Houchin and the back line also came through with a number of big blocked shots and slide tackles.
“Kate was awesome. The whole back line was awesome,” Houchin said. “Every time we were thinking to sell out, be there to support each other and be the cover. If one of us gets beat it’s OK because someone else is going to be there to cover.”
Auburn wraps up the regular season by hosting No. 8 South Carolina (12-1-3, 6-0-3 SEC) Thursday at 7 p.m. CT at the Auburn Soccer Complex. Treva Aycock, Bri Folds, Gerow and Hart will be honored during Senior Night ceremonies prior to the contest.