ATHENS, Ga. – The Auburn soccer team picked up its third win over a ranked opponent this season when it claimed a 2-1 win over No. 20 Georgia on Sunday afternoon to move into first place in the SEC West with one regular season match remaining.
"We stepped up today, from beginning to end," Auburn Head Coach Karen Hoppa said. "We played a full 90 minutes today. It wasn't always pretty and it usually isn't when you are playing on the road."
Maddie Barnes put Auburn (10-6-2, 4-4-2 SEC) up 1-0 when she headed in a Katy Frierson corner in the seventh minute. Mary Nicholson drew the corner for Auburn when her shot from the top of the 18 was deflected over the end line by a Georgia defender. The goal was Auburn's first in a first half in its last seven contests, dating back to the win at Arkansas.
"I couldn't have picked a better game to get my first career goal in since I am from Georgia. We needed this one to keep us alive for post-season play," Barnes said. "Katy put it right on my head. I don't think I even had to move."
"We always say when you are on the road in the SEC it usually takes two goals to win. We felt like Maddie's goal was the equalizer for us and made it an equal playing field real early in the game," Hoppa said.
Amy Howard's diving save of a Nicole Locandro shot in the 15th minute kept it a one-goal match in Auburn's favor and was just one of Howard's seven first-half saves, at least three of which were highlight reel material, which was a season-high for the sophomore keeper, who finished with nine.
"Seven saves in a half is massive. The second part of that first half Georgia had complete control. We were getting peppered a little bit but Amy kept her composure," Hoppa said. "That's what a veteran keeper does for you. She kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win. Lucky for us Gabi (Rivera) scored a terrific goal to get the victory."
Georgia scored the game-tying goal in the 65th minute when Susannah Dennis finished off a Georgia corner. Traci Dreesen served in the corner for Georgia, which was pushed out to Madeline Barker atop the box.
Barker flicked it to Dennis, who snuck it inside the post for her fourth goal of the season to tie it at 1-1.
Rivera netted the game-winner with just over 13 minutes left when she took the ball into the 18 as Georgia goalkeeper Ashley Baker was coming off her line to stop the attack. Baker initially slowed the run a step inside the 18 but she could not completely stop it, allowing Rivera to fight through her and rip an uncontested shot into the back of the net for her third goal of the season and the 2-1 lead.
"I saw the keeper come out. I took a touch around her and I tried to shoot it as hard as I could in the air because I saw no one was in net," Rivera said. "I knew I just had to hit it on frame and it would go in."
Auburn closes out the regular season on Friday when it plays host to Alabama at 7pm.