June 27, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN – As Karen Hoppa heads into her 15th season as Auburn’s head soccer coach, there’s not a lot her program hasn’t done.
The Tigers have been to 11 of the past 12 NCAA Tournaments. Their seven-year streak is equaled only by Florida and Texas A&M among SEC teams. They’ve won a Southeastern Conference championship, an SEC Tournament championship and seven West Division championships.
But they have not advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
“We have really, I think, established a level of consistency,” Hoppa said. “Really our goal now is we want to get further into the NCAA’s. Our short-term goal is the Sweet 16. As soon as we do that, we want to get to the Elite Eight, the Final Four and just keep working up the chain. The Sweet 16 is the monkey on our backs. We were 44 seconds away last year.”
Last season, after winning a first-round game at Washington, the Tigers lost a controversial heartbreaker at No. 2 Brigham Young. With the game tied 0-0 and seemingly headed for overtime, Bianca Sierra was called for a foul that set up the BYU penalty kick. The kick was good and Brigham Young escaped with a 1-0 win.
“We were 44 seconds away,” Hoppa said, shaking her head.
If the Tigers are going to make a run in the coming season, they’ll have to do it with perhaps the youngest team in Hoppa’s tenure. Fifteen of 23 players are freshmen or sophomores.
“We are going to need some freshmen to step up and play big, which is a scary proposition,” Hoppa said. “That being said, we do have some great leadership. We have a couple of really good seniors.”
There were signs of hope in the spring, when the Tigers were 4-0-1 in exhibition games. Transfers Alex Massey, a forward, and Allison Wright, a goalkeeper, were among the standouts.
“Spring was great,” Hoppa said. “We lost six starters from the fall, so spring was really unknown. We went undefeated and played some good teams. We did better than I thought we would.”
Junior Tatiana Coleman led the team in scoring last season as a sophomore with 27 points. Sophomore Tori Ball was tied for second on the team with 15 points per game as a redshirt freshman.
Auburn soccer has grown steadily since Hoppa moved from Central Florida in 1999. The program shares a plush facility with the track program.
“This facility has helped a ton,” Hoppa said. “We’ve been able to expand our recruiting and really diversify our recruiting. We’ve been able to diversify geographically and in the type players we are getting. Our recruiting has been very good.”
After playing a home exhibition game against Memphis on Aug. 17, the Tigers open their season on Aug. 23 against Clemson at the Auburn Soccer Complex.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: