AU Soccer Ready To Play At Home In SEC Tourney

Auburn, Ala.--The ninth-ranked and SEC Western Division champion Auburn soccer team will begin postseason play Thursday at noon against Ole Miss in the SEC tournament, which is being played at the Auburn Soccer Complex.

The tournament, which was originally scheduled to be played in Orange Beach, Ala., was moved to Auburn after damage from hurricane Ivan made it a problem to play at that venue.

"This is an exciting opportunity to have the SEC Tournament on our campus and our home field," Auburn Coach Karen Hoppa says. "Our goal is to make the most out of that home field advantage and build on the momentum we have in the postseason."

The second seeded Tigers, who are 14-2-2 overall and 9-0-2 in SEC play, will look to win their first SEC Tournament game since 2001 when Auburn beat the Rebels 2-1 in the semi-finals.

Auburn is led by a strong senior class that includes three time All-American goalkeeper Megan Rivera, who has a stellar 0.59 goals against average this season. Forward Sarah Steinmann leads the Tigers offense in assists with six and is second in goals with seven. Fellow forward Chrissy Culver leads the Tigers in scoring with seven goals on the year, and defender Jenn Walters has added four goals and an assist.

"This year is special because of the senior leadership we have had," Hoppa says about her seniors. "Chrissy Culver, Megan Rivera, Sarah Steinmann and Jenn Walters are the heart of this team and we go as they go. Our success is a tribute to their leadership throughout their four years and they are the reason this team has been able to set such high goals this season."

Auburn's senior goalkeeper Megan Rivera is having another strong season.

Ole Miss, who comes into the contest as the tournament's seventh seed, is 8-9-2 overall and 4-5-2 in conference. The Rebels are led by Brittney Potts, who has scored a team high 10 goals and has added two assists, and Kelly Renie, who has six goals and five assists. Also, goalkeeper Ann Shelton has started all 19 games for the Rebels and holds a very solid 1.03 goals against average.

The two teams met earlier this season at the Auburn Soccer Complex and the Tigers came away with a 2-1 win behind goals from junior midfielder Sara Power and junior midfielder Christie Cigno, who transferred from Saint Louis prior to the season.

Despite the regular season win, Hoppa says the Tigers will have their hands full on Thursday. "To have earned the No. 2 seed in the tournament and have to play Ole Miss just shows the strength of this conference," Hoppa explains. "They are a very tough first round draw and I think that shows the parity of the SEC."

Even with the tough first round draw, the Tigers could have an ace in the hole with the tournament being moved to the Plains. Under Coach Hoppa, Auburn is 39-12-2 at the Auburn Soccer complex and that mark includes an astounding 25-1-2 home record over the past three seasons.

On Wednesday six Auburn players, including all four seniors, were named to All-SEC teams at the SEC Tournament Banquet. Seniors Rivera and Culver were named first team selections along with sophomore defender Rhonda Brooks. Also, Steinmann and Walters were named as second team selections, and freshman defender Lauren Stewart, who is the younger sister of Jada and Kristen Stewart, was named to the All-Freshman Team.

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