Utah State Falls 2-1 at Auburn in NCAA Soccer Tournament
Utah State ends the season with a 15-5-2 record, while Auburn advances to the second round with a 15-6-2 mark. The 15 wins is the most ever by an Aggie soccer squad.
"I was really proud of the girls. We said all along that we were going to come here to win it. We weren’t going to come in here overwhelmed. We have played plenty of teams this season that have the same kind of caliber as Auburn. I thought we were a little jittery in the first 20 minutes. Unfortunately, we gave up that goal. Katy Frierson made an awesome play. It took us a couple of minutes after that to settle into the game. After that, I thought we settled in very well. We had a great push there at the end and made it 2-1. We just came up short today. I couldn’t be more proud of our girls," USU head coach Heather Cairns said.
Auburn took the early lead in the 17th minute when Southeastern Conference Tournament MVP Katy Frierson scored on a dangerous play to the upper right corner of the goal for her ninth goal of the season. It was the first goal that senior goalkeeper Molli Merrill had allowed since the Aggies, 2-1, loss at Hawai‘i on Sept. 30.
In the ninth minute of the first half, Merrill made a great save on a shot by Julie King. It was her first and only save of the first 45 minutes.
The Tigers kept control of the ball the bulk of the first half, taking all eight shots of the first half. Both teams had two corner kicks in the half. USU had one by senior defender Summer Tillotson and one by sophomore midfielder Kendra Pemberton. Utah State made only two subs in the first period of action, bringing in sophomore midfielder Shay Haddow when sophomore midfielder Jennifer Flynn when out with an injury. Freshman forward Jade Tarver also made an appearance in the first half.
In the second half, the Tigers remained aggressive on the offensive side of the ball, but the Aggies did earn the first corner kick off the second half off the leg of Pemberton.
Early in the second half, Merrill made a tremendous diving save of a Tori Ball shot which was the 11th of the match for Auburn. Just seconds later in the 58th minute, Ball converted a Kim Spence pass to give the Tigers the 2-0 advantage. The goal was the fourth of the season for Ball.
The Aggies came back to cut the lead in half in the 64th minute. Sophomore forward Mari Miyashiro had Utah State's first shot of the match that hit the post. Pemberton took the deflection and drilled the ball past Auburn goalkeeper Amy Howard to cut the lead to 2-1. The goal was the seventh of the season for Pemberton who was an all-Western Athletic Conference honoree. The goal was the first NCAA Tournament goal for Utah State.
"To be honest, it was awesome (to score in an NCAA Tournament match). I didn’t remember it that much because I was trying to get the second one so bad. It helped us realize we were still in this game. I knew I had to put it away to keep us in the game. It was awesome. I didn’t even think about it until now," Pemberton said.
Despite creating more chances in the second half, the Aggies were not able to get the equalizer. Auburn ended the match with the 2-1 win. The Tigers out-shot USU 18-2 for the match and had 12 corner kicks to six by the Blue and White.
Utah State will be saying goodbye to a quintet of seniors who were part of the of the winningest senior class in Aggie history with 47 wins. Merrill, Flanary, Tillotson, Marissa Sanchez and Chandra Salmon-Christensen were the first Aggie players to win a WAC Tournament and were WAC Champions twice in four years.