Soccer wins first SEC Tournament game since 2011


CW / Madelyn Verbrugge

Alabama soccer defeated in-state rival Auburn in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Sunday with a golden goal in overtime.

The victory marks the Crimson Tide’s first win in the SEC Tournament since 2011.

“We’ve won a lot of games, but this one is definitely the most special and means the most to us, especially to Auburn,” junior midfielder Taylor Morgan said. “We’ve been in a lot of overtime this year and that’s kind of where we thrive. They might have won the Iron Bowl in the regular season, but we won the Iron Bowl in the SEC Tournament.”

Prior to Sunday’s win, Alabama lost to Auburn one week prior on Oct. 27, falling 3-2 in double overtime. That to Auburn marked its seventh consecutive loss to the Tigers.

The Crimson Tide started off strong and scored the first goal of the SEC Tournament in the ninth minute. Junior forward Casey Wertz scored the goal, assisted by junior midfielder Kaley Verpaele. The goal is Wertz’s sixth of the season, which leads the team.

After making several strong pushes to no avail, Auburn finally responded in the 31st minute with a goal by senior forward Jessie Gerow, unassisted.

At the half, both teams remained tied at one goal apiece.

Alabama maintained a strong offensive presence in the second half, dominating ball possession and having multiple scoring opportunities. However, Auburn graduate student goalkeeper Kate Hart was having none of it, and seemed to have an answer for everything the Crimson Tide shot her way.

At the end of regulation, the game remained tied and advanced to sudden-death overtime.

After several minutes of back-and-forth action, Alabama was able to bring it home in the 98th minute. Off of a corner kick, freshman midfielder Carlee Giammona centered the ball, passing it to fellow freshman forward Macy Clem, who shot the ball past Hart into the back of the net for the game-winning golden goal.

“We’ve been in this position with Auburn before and the last time we played them, it just didn’t go in our favor,” Clem said. “There was a point in the beginning of the overtime where I was like, ‘I have a feeling we are going to win this game.’ I hate penalty kicks and I know everyone else does so I knew we just had to get it done.”

In total, the Crimson Tide outshot the Tigers 22-13, with 12 of the shots being on goal. Wertz and sophomore forward Riley Mattingly led the team with four shots apiece. Wertz stretches her lead on the team in points to 19, with six goals and seven assists on the season.

Freshman goalkeeper A.J. Crooks had another solid outing, allowing only one goal and being credited with five saves. Crooks is now 6-2-2 on the season as a starter.

“Aside from about a 15-minute speed at the end of the first half, I thought we completely dominated this game,” coach Wes Hart said. “I loved the energy we started the game with. We were a bit unfortunate to not to get another one early. Credit to Auburn though, they found a way to hang around.”

For the Tigers, senior midfielder Bri Folds led the team in shots with five. Three of the shots were on goal, but none made it past Crooks.

Hart, the Auburn goalkeeper, had an exceptional outing, tallying 10 saves with two goals allowed in 98 minutes of play.

With the loss, Auburn’s season ends on the sands of Orange Beach, Alabama. The Tigers finish the season with a record of 7-10-2, with a 4-7-0 record in the SEC.

“We will certainly enjoy this for a few hours, but we’ve got bigger things to accomplish while we are here,” coach Wes Hart said.

After the win, Alabama advances to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament to face the No. 2 seed in Vanderbilt. The Commodores earned a bye in the first round after finishing 6-3-1 in the SEC. Alabama faced off against Vanderbilt in its last game of the regular season on Oct. 31, falling 2-1.

“We are ready to take on Vanderbilt and we have a lot of adrenaline going into that game,” Clem said.

The SEC Tournament quarterfinal matchup between Alabama and Vanderbilt is slated for Tuesday at 1 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.