Thatcher delivers knockout punch as Tigers blank Mississippi State
AUBURN, Ala. – Trading blows in a scoreless draw for 79 minutes, Auburn soccer broke the tie with an 80th minute goal from sophomore Carly Thatcher to defeat Mississippi State 1-0 Sunday at the Auburn Soccer Complex.
Auburn (6-3-5, 2-3-1) found its lethal blow following a beautiful cross outside the left edge of the penalty box from senior Sydney Richards that caught Thatcher near right post for a sliding shot off the right foot into the back of the net to hand Mississippi State (9-2-3, 3-2-1) its second loss all season.
“It’s a massive win,” Tigers head coach Karen Hoppa said. “That’s a great Mississippi State team. It’ll prove to be a key result for us later in the year, and boy, we needed it. I thought we were better today than we were last time out, so I am super proud of this team and know that they’re only going to keep building from here.”
The Orange & Blue offense outmatched the Bulldogs all game long as the Tigers outshot their opponent 14-7. Auburn’s attack placed six of its shots on-goal, led by Thatcher with three and graduate student M.E. Craven with two, while Mississippi State was only able to muster one.
Additionally, the Auburn front line showed dominance up top, taking 10 total corner kicks compared to the Bulldogs’ three. The Tigers move to 5-1-1 on the year when taking more corners.
Matching the offensive control, the Tiger defense solidified the team’s sixth shutout of the season. Auburn’s back four, Craven, Madeline Moore, Hailey Whitaker and Hayden Colson pushed six of the Bulldogs’ seven shots astray. Junior goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska picked up the 20th clean sheet of her career with a single save.
At 0.90, Prohaska stands second in the Auburn soccer record books for career goals against average. Posting a 0.59 GAA for the season, the West Chester, Ohio product chases Megan Rivera’s 2003 single-season record of 0.68.
“Our defense was really strong today,” Prohaska said. “No matter who was on the field, all 11 players contributed to our defensive success. We really emphasized extra effort today, and everyone definitely showed that. This win was super important as we start to find some offensive success in the final stretch of SEC play. We’re going to celebrate this win, then get our sights set on the next one.”
Auburn did not hesitate to create chances often and early as the Tigers saw three dangerous opportunities in the first half. Thatcher ripped off the first shot of the game in the 5th minute as junior Olivia Candelino broke pressure up top for a cross near the right edge of the goal box. Thatcher fired a strike at the net in a one-on-one matchup with the Mississippi State keeper, but the shot was deflected for the save.
Thatcher struck once more in the 20th minute, capitalizing on a pass from graduate student Grace Sklopan to fire a bullet aimed at the right upper 90, but the Bulldogs’ Mac Titus made the leap to collect the one-handed save.
Auburn saw its final first-half opportunity after being awarded a free kick just outside the left wing of the penalty box. Craven found service from junior Anna Haddock for the attacking header that was blocked on a last-minute stifle by Titus near the far post.
The Bulldogs created their only serious chance in the 77th minute on a right-footed shot from Alivia Buxton outside the penalty arc, but Buxton was denied as Prohaska made the dive to her left to pick up the save.
Three minutes later, Auburn would put the game away for good as Candelino found Richards outside the left edge of the penalty box for the cross-goal cross that found Thatcher sneaking toward right post for the all-out difference-maker.
— Auburn Soccer (@AuburnSoccer) October 9, 2022
The fifth career goal from Thatcher marks the Greer, South Carolina product’s first ever game-winner.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Thatcher said. “We stayed patient the whole game because we knew that chance would come and then it happened. Mississippi State is a great team, but we were able to pick out the second balls and stay aggressive and stay patient. Now, we’ve got two big wins in a row, and I know it’s only up from here.”
Credited for creating the opportunity, Candelino records an assist for the second-straight match while Richards continues her dominant career versus Mississippi State as the Plano, Texas native has either scored a goal or assisted one in four consecutive matches versus the Bulldogs.
Up next, the Tigers hit the road and trek to Bryan-College Station for a tough test at Texas A&M Friday, Oct. 14. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT.