Scrappy Soccer Tigers Fall To No. 1 UNC, 2-0

Auburn, Ala.--It was a historical Friday night at the Auburn Soccer Complex as the Tigers battled the top-ranked North Carolina Tarheels in the first-ever night match on the AU campus.

The Tarheels came away with a 2-0 victory on the stat sheet and improved to 6-0, however, it is the Tigers, who dropped to 4-2-1, who will take more positives away than negatives from their gritty performance against the nation's best team.

"I think we can take a lot of things away," third-year Coach Karen Richter said. "We came out and played hard. We battled hard. They certainly exposed us a couple of times, but I think we can take a lot of confidence out of the way we played this game and take that into conference."

A record-setting crowd of 2,523 fans watched the Tigers hold the high-powered Tarheel offense scoreless until defender Jena Kruegel put a crossing pass from Danielle Borgman into the back of the net with just 25 seconds remaining in the first half. UNC outshot Auburn 13-1 in the first half.

The Tigers' only shot of the first half, a 25-yard blast off the right foot of forward Sarah Steinmann, nearly went through the hands of Tarheel goalie Jenni Branam.

"Obviously we knew it was going to be a tough game," Auburn defender Erin Hinson said. "We were ready. I think we prepared hard this week and tried not to be intimidated at all and just come out as hard as we could. I think the results showed. I think our efforts were definitely there."

Defender Erin Hinson helped AU slow a usually explosive Tarheel offense.

Auburn goalie Megan Rivera, who is a member of the U.S. Junior National Team with several of the Tarheels, stopped eight of 10 shots on goal by UNC and made a sensational diving stop late in the second half to keep AU within striking distance. "We played a very hard game," Rivera said. "We put a lot of effort into it and we played our hardest and came out and gave them a challenge. We busted our butts. I think it gives us a lot of confidence for what we're going to do in the SEC." Tarheel forward Alyssa Ramsey was able to add an insurance goal for UNC with 7:56 remaining in the game.

UNC's two goals was its second-lowest scoring output of the season. UNC scored only one goal against Texas in the season-opening win. "I think they have an excellent team," UNC head coach Anson Dorrance said. "We were very impressed when we were scouting them and saw that they had beaten Virginia. They have just an outstanding goalkeeper. They have good speed up top. Their speed in the back is also very good. Usually, we can run away from teams, but we couldn't run away from their backs and they hung in their like grim death with a very fast forward line."

UNC outshot the Tigers 23-2 for the game. "They are going to beat some more good teams," Dorrance said of the Tigers. "There is no question they will get an NCAA bid. Beating Virginia sealed that for them. So if they continue to play the way they have so far this season, they are sure to get a bid. They're certainly going to compete in the SEC as well." Dorrance, who is in his 23rd season with UNC, is no stranger to NCAA-caliber teams. He has led the ‘Heels to 16 national championships, including four of the last five.

Richter was disappointed with the loss as any coach would be, but she said the 2-0 loss to the Tarheels is not going to hurt her team. "I'm really proud of the girls and I'm proud of their effort," Richter said. "I'm pleased with the development thus far of the program. I think it's a good measuring stick to see where we are in the country and go from there."

A fireworks show capped off the historic night and illuminated the dark sky as songs about America filled the airwaves. Both teams sat on the field and watched the 10-minute display.

Auburn begins SEC play Friday, Oct. 5, vs. Tennessee in second home night match at the AU soccer complex. The Tigers will look to qualify for the SEC Tournament for the first time in Richter's tenure at Auburn.

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