By Tom Hurley | @TomHurleyKernel
UK women’s soccer completed a second half comeback to defeat Auburn 2-1 Sunday and secure a 1st round bye at the SEC tournament.
The win ensures the Cats will begin the tournament in round two of Orange Beach, Ala., event as Arkansas cannot now overhaul them in the standings.
Finding his side 1-0 down at half-time, UK head coach Jon Lipsitz let his squad know he expected better after the interval.
“I just felt like they (Auburn) were playing harder than us.” Lipsitz said.
“It was a calm talk, it wasn’t yelling or anything like that, it was just we’re better than this and we can do better.”
70 degrees and a gentle breeze made for perfect weather at the UK Soccer Complex, and both teams made the most of the conditions in an action packed first half.
Freshman forward Kelli Hubly and sophomore defender Arin Gilliland, who was once again used up front by UK head coach Jon Lipsitz, both tested Amy Howard in the Tigers goal.
UK sophomore goalkeeper Kayla King’s saw Tori Ball’s free-kick skim past her right-hand post before Tatiana Coleman forced a save.
But there was little King could do in the 33rd minute when the impressive Coleman put the visitors ahead.
Lurking on the edge of the area at a corner, Coleman collgave her side the lead in the 33rd minute, taking a half-cleared corner on the half volley and striking the ball with such force in the direction of King that the Lexington native could do nothing to stop the bullet from rippling into the net.
“Who’s the one player (Auburn) want to find? Number 11 (Coleman) and we lost her twice in a row and that just can’t happen,” Lipsitz said.
Auburn almost doubled their lead before half time when Stuart Pope was booked for giving away a penalty, but Ana Cate’s tame effort dribbled wide of King’s goal.
The visitors were left to rue that miss moments into the second half when they let their lead slip.
Senior defender Alyssa Telang picked up the ball on the right flank, looked-up into the middle and sent an inch perfect cross into the six yard box for Gililand to poke home.
The equalizer was Gilliland’s third goal in four matches.
Five minutes later another perfect ball from Telang saw the home side complete the turn around and take a 2-1 lead.
The senior drilled a corner kick from the right into the box which was headed home by freshman midfielder Olivia Jester.
“I’m happy with how we responded,” said Lipsitz of the turnaround.
UK twice nearly made it 3-1 moments later as junior midfielder Danielle Krohn’s thunderous effort slammed onto the bar from distance, before VanLindingham’s powerful free-kick was caught by Howard.
Another Telang set-piece delivery caused problems with 12 minutes remaining before Gilliland went close as UK continued to push for an insurance marker.
Auburn pushed forward late on in search of an equalizer and almost got it from a corner with three minutes to play, but ultimately were unable to stop UK from extending its winning streak to four.
The Cats close out their regular season schedule Thursday with senior night at the UK Soccer Complex. Kick-off against Vanderbilt is set for 7 p.m.