ORANGE BEACH, Ala. --On Wednesday, the No. 19 Tennessee soccer team and Auburn played a very physical match for the second time this season. This time, the Tigers came out on top, edging the Lady Vols in penalty kicks, 5-3, following 110 minutes of scoreless play in the SEC Tournament at Orange Beach Sportsplex.
"It was a very physical game," Tennessee head coach Brian Pensky said. "There were two teams competing with heart. Auburn is a team that is competing for their NCAA Tournament lives and they're a good team. They have a lot of returning players from last year's SEC Tournament championship team. Certainly, they gave us all we could handle and we're just disappointed right now."
Tennessee (14-4-3) watched Auburn (11-9-1) convert all five of its penalty kicks to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals on Friday to face No. 2 seed Texas A&M. Auburn shot AU goalkeeper Amy Howard stopped Kylie Bono's shot to give the Tigers a 3-2 edge heading into their fourth shooter.
After Caroline Capocaccia was called for a red card in the 69th minute, UT battled on with just 10 players on the field for the final scoreless 41 minutes of the second half and two overtime periods.
Auburn outshot Tennessee, 22-14. The Lady Vols held a 5-3 edge on corner kicks. In the physical match, UT was called for 20 fouls and issued four yellow cards and one red card while Auburn was tabbed for 10 fouls.
After halftime, UT had seven great scoring opportunities that came up short.
In the 58th minute, Bono sent a corner kick in from the left side, finding Ali Hall on the other side of the box. After corralling the ball in the air, Hall had an open shot from about eight years out for a split second, but an Auburn defender came flying in from her right to block her attempt.
In the 64th minute, Alexis Owens collected the ball across the top line of the penalty area and made a sweeping kick across the ground. Howard made a diving save to her right to stop the ball from hitting the middle of the net.
Two minutes later, Owens was back at it, sliding across the end line once again from the left side for a shot that Howard barely poked away.
In the 66th minute, Hannah Wilkinson sent a cross down the back line to find Tori Bailey on the opposite side of the box. Bailey made a pass over her head to Caroline Brown, who struck a header that was wide right.
In the 83rd minute, Owens slid across the box and fired a shot to the left post that was wide left
With 30 seconds left in regulation, Susan Ferguson took the ball into the left side of the box and fired a shot to the left post, but Howard was there for the save.
In the first overtime, Wilkinson sent a short cross over to Brown in the box in the 98th minute and the junior midfielder fired a shot on the ground that was saved on the left side of the box when Howard played up.
In the closing seconds of the first overtime, UT goalkeeper Julie Eckel made a heads-up play, sprinting down the end line to kick the ball out of bounds and prevent Auburn from getting a corner kick opportunity with 10 seconds left.
Eckel made eight saves in the tie, moving her record on the year to 14-4-3. Howard (11-9-1) made six saves for Auburn.
"We've got to go home and get some bodies well, get rested and still be very excited," Pensky said. "We've had an amazing season. We're disappointed right now because we don't get to advance and we want to be here Friday night playing in the semifinals and so that's disappointing. We still have a ton to play for and we're excited about that."
Tennessee, which has an NCAA RPI of 13, will wait to see what it postseason future holds as the NCAA Tournament Selection show is on Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.
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