ARK-AUB soccer 11/4/21

Razorback junior Bea Franklin (No. 8) celebrates with her teammates after the Hogs defeated Auburn 5-1 to advance to the SEC Championship.

The Arkansas soccer team defeated the Auburn Tigers 5-1 Thursday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal in Orange Beach, Alabama.

The first-seeded Razorbacks advanced to their sixth consecutive SEC Tournament final appearance.

Three of Thursday’s game’s six goals came within five minutes of halftime. Senior forward Kayla McKeon got the scoring started in the 41st minute with a strike from just outside the penalty box off a drop pass. McKeon added to the Arkansas lead with a free kick goal in the 47th minute.

McKeon, a sixth-year senior, was the biggest contributor to the Razorbacks’ victory.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” McKeon told the SEC Network postgame. “We wanted to play with intensity and press as hard as we always do. This (SEC Championship opportunity) is something that has been on our minds, those of us who came back for this year.

Auburn fired back quickly with a Sydnie Thibodeaux goal in the 48th minute, making it a 2-1 game.

Arkansas continued to push the tempo offensively for the entire second half, putting heavy pressure on the Auburn defense. The pressure paid off, and the Razorbacks closed the door on Auburn’s SEC championship hopes with three goals in the final 15 minutes.

What seemed to be the dagger goal came from senior midfielder Taylor Malham in the 76th minute. It was Malham’s 30th of her career and eighth of the season.

The Auburn defense could not keep up with the Razorbacks’ attack. Arkansas poured it on and added a pair of goals in the final minutes to put the game out of hand, 5-1. The first score came from junior midfielder Bea Franklin and the second came from junior midfielder Ava Benedetti.

“I thought we had some players step up today,” Arkansas head coach Colby Hale told Arkansas Athletics after the win. “We don’t play with one day of rest very often, so we knew we’d need to have some players take on bigger roles. We will take tomorrow and rest up and get ready for the final. This team is ready.”

Arkansas outshot the Tigers 18-8 and had nine shots on, compared to just two for the Tigers.

The Razorbacks will play the No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers for the SEC Championship at 1 p.m. Sunday in Orange Beach. The match will be broadcast on SEC Network.

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