Strong Showing: AU Soccer Wins In NCAA Tourney

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn soccer team was able to find the back of the net again Friday night as the Tigers took a strong 2-0 victory over a very talented Clemson team in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Auburn Soccer Complex.

Sparked by second half goals from Courtney Crandell and Chrissy Culver plus Megan Rivera's 33rd career shutout, the Tigers were able to advance on to the second round of the tournament where they will face Washington, which defeated Birmingham Southern 5-0 earlier in the evening. That match will start at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Auburn Soccer Complex.

"Obviously, the first thing I have got to say is that Clemson played a terrific game," Auburn Coach Karen Hoppa said about the victory, which was the Tigers' third first round NCAA win. "We knew coming in they were a really tough first round opponent. It is tough when you have two Top 25 teams meet in the first round because somebody is going to get eliminated.

"I told my team at halftime when it was 0-0 that it was just that, it was a great game and it was going to be the little things that were going to make the difference," she continued. "And, if we have each player pick it up a little bit and adjust the little things it was going to make a difference for us."

After a slower paced first half in which Clemson controlled the offensive action much of the time, both teams came out quickly in the second half and were really attempting to push the pace of play offensively.

Both teams had strong scoring opportunities within the first five minutes of the second half, but came up empty. However, the fevered pace continued from both offensive teams and then Auburn put the first strike on the board.

In the 68th minute of the match junior defender Ashley Eason made a run down the left center of the field and slid a solid assist out in front of junior forward Courtney Crandell. Crandell took the ball in stride and cranked a shot from about 15 yards out past Clemson goalkeeper Lauren Johnston and into the bottom right corner of the net to give Auburn the 1-0 lead.

Crandell rips this shot past the Clemson keeper for a 1-0 lead.

Two minutes later the Tigers caught a bit of a break as Clemson tried to strike back and turned a quick run into a solid scoring chance. Clemson controlled a lose ball in the midfield and played a nice pass up to a running forward. She then played it forward on the right side in space and ripped a very high hard shot from 25-30 yards out that bounced off the upper 90 degree angle of the crossbar on the left side as Rivera tried to fly over to knock it away.

Rivera said after the match that the talented Clemson offense made things tough on the Auburn defense. "They were, but our backs did a good job of defending them," she noted about the talent and speed of the Clemson forwards "They were tough to defend against, but we good job."

Even with a one goal lead and a strong defense working well, Auburn was not done scoring as the Tigers put one in with some extra effort off of a set play in the 81st minute.

Jada Stewart served a freekick into the box and Chrissy Culver headed it on goal, but Johnston was able to knock it away, however Jac Schwarz ran it down on the endline and served a second ball up in the box that Culver put away for the final 2-0 margin.

Chrissy Culver celebrates with her teammates after she scored the Tigers' second goal.

Culver said following the game that Friday's win may have been partly due to their abysmal performance in their last outing. "We were disappointed in our performance in the SEC tournament and it served more as a motivator because we were on our home field and especially for our senior class because that stuff just doesn't happen, you just don't see that happening.

"So, coming out here and finally getting a chance to play on your home field for the NCAAs was a huge opportunity for us and I am glad that we were able to come out here and take advantage of it."

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