The fall semester is right around the corner, and with it comes the opening of the Auburn athletics schedule. The football team kicks off the upcoming fall semester, which is full of sports, with an exhibition game against Georgia Southern on August 8th.
The team comes into this season with a chip on their shoulder after an early first-round NCAA Tournament elimination by in-state neighbor Samford. With that game in mind, this fall will be an attempt to overcome that conclusion.
“Last season, we all felt disappointed with the way it ended,” coach Karen Hoppa said. “We had a great regular season. We took a massive step forward from the year before and then got upset in the NCAA tournament. We feel like there is unfinished business.”
Auburn fell to Samford 2-0 on Nov. 12 to end last season after beating the Bulldogs 2-1 earlier in the season, which only proves the game was winnable by the Tigers. The wait itself between that contest and the season has been unusual, making the loss stick in the mind all the more.
“It’s the first time for our rising juniors that they’ve had to wait a spring before they can have a season again,” Hoppa said. “It’s been a long wait with that result in all of our minds haunting us… I guess I look at it as a sense of unfinished business.”
Hoppa’s squad brings back a large class of youngsters who have a big role to play across the club, but those youngsters played through COVID-19 and a pair of underwhelming seasons. Therefore, this wait has been the longest stretch they have waited to play in their college careers. The anticipation is building.
Six of those youngsters hold down starting roles, and they’re laying the foundation for what will ultimately be an older roster after Hoppa and the staff worked the last few years with teams loaded with underclassmen. They will be key in providing leadership to the incoming class of six freshmen.
The big name in Auburn’s attack is Anna Haddock, a junior midfielder who scored a team-best nine goals in the 2021 season. The number four brings an elite skill set that translates into some nice goals.
Behind Haddock in the back line is another youngster, midfielder/forward Mallory Mooney, who will be a veteran presence alongside youngsters like LJ Knox and Carly Thatcher, who worked through their first year to become assets in rotation.
In addition to the team’s enthusiasm from within the program, their opening games could be a major factor in the strong start of fall athletics. Students start coming back to town right as the games begin, so fans and players alike should be interested in how these first few games shake out.
“I just feel like there’s something about being under the lights on a Thursday or Friday night that’s like nothing else. It’s one thing to go to a soccer game,” junior goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska said. “You can’t really immerse yourself in what the game is really like, but going out to a football game, you’re there and your voice is heard by every person in the stadium.”
Prohaska is in goal for the third consecutive year and practically serves as a coach on the field. She recorded 56 saves last year while starting all 20 games, good for a .700 save percentage.
The intimate setting she discussed is what makes the Auburn football complex a place on campus where every fan can make a difference. Football is a sport where individual goals often decide the outcome, and having an active crowd often swings games in Auburn’s favor.
“I hope the Auburn community and Auburn students will pick up where we left off last year athletically and we saw what the crowds did for men’s basketball, gymnastics and baseball, especially in the postseason for baseball,” Hoppa said. . “These are the crowds we want to see brought to football because the potential of this team is limitless and home field advantage makes a massive, massive difference.”
Auburn soccer opens its home schedule with an exhibition against Georgia Southern on August 8th at 6:30pm CST. That is followed by another exhibition five days later in Memphis before the official season opener on Aug. 18 against Old Dominion.
“I think there’s been a great foundation laid in the last few years and I think the potential for this team is really unlimited,” Hoppa said. “We look forward to seeing the Auburn family at the stadium on August 18.”