AHS Soccer Hungry to Top 2022 Season

AHS head coach Bill Ferguson (left) was all over the field at practice on Friday, Feb. 17. PHOTO BY NOAH GRIFFITH / FOR THE OBSERVER




Last spring, the Auburn High boys and girls soccer teams won 16 and 15 games, respectively, to finish with winning percentages over 75% each. However, both teams lost in the state’s quarterfinal round, leaving potential unmet and stomachs growling as the 2023 season gets rolling.

The girls, after pitching 11 shutouts and going 15-2-2 in 2022, met a Fairhope team in the playoffs who came and caught Auburn by surprise with a 1-0 win to end the Tigers’ season.

Similarly, the Auburn boys came into the round-of-eight on a five-game win streak and had not allowed multiple goals in a month since it beat Opelika 3-2; but it ran into a hot Davidson squad, who overwhelmed Auburn, 7-3.

Both teams know they were capable of more, and that is fueling the fire as the 2023 season gets underway. So far this season, the boys are 3-1-1 including a revenge win over Davidson, and the girls are 3-2 headed into a Tuesday night matchup with Columbus, Georgia.

“I think both teams are really coming together, and we’ve seen a lot of minds set on really getting better,” said head coach Bill Ferguson. “They’re realizing that just because we have a good season during the meat of it doesn’t mean we are guaranteed a spot to play (for the State Championship) in Huntsville. So, I think there’s a lot of hunger there.”

Both teams have a good mix of youth and veteran players, according to Ferguson, but both have significant losses on the back end.

The boys are missing six of their starters on the back end from last season, and they have a freshman at goalie. Helping to fill that void is senior Cade Edwards, who is returning to the Tigers from playing with the MLS’s “Next” program along with junior Soohyuk “Soo” Choi and sophomore Matthew Bolding.

“Last year, [Auburn] was lacking defensive support, and I think this year we got two really good players who have stepped up [in Choi and Bolding],” Edwards said. “I think they’ll play a crucial role on the back line this year… Hopefully, we can get a State Championship out of this year. We have a pretty strong team.”

Led by senior backs Hannah Arnoll, Ellie Hammer and Caroline Hennessey, the girls team is feeling even more confident than last season, when they allowed just 11 goals in 21 games. Even though goalkeeper Aubrey Sarkowski graduated, Arnoll feels like the team will only continue to improve.

“I think last year we were, kind of, focused too much on the bigger picture, and we didn’t take it game by game,” Arnoll explained. “I think we already had that mindset that we were going to State. This season, we just have the mentality, like, no game is a big game. Every single game is just like the other, and we’re just going to take it game by game and see how it goes.”

Ferguson knows his teams possess the skill necessary to win it all. For him, it simply comes down to mentality. The coach doesn’t want outside expectations to determine what Auburn is capable of.

While the boys team won its first 7A State Championship in 2018, the girls team is yet to win a ring. He’s looking to change that this season, but his goals for his team go beyond a championship.

“One of our goals is, yes, to win a state championship – I think you’re kidding yourself if you don’t have your eye on playing for a state championship, but we want to be the best we can be,” Ferguson said. “If the state championship is that, that could also be a limitation. We can play better than what it takes to win state, I think. We just want to come out here and get better every day.”

After facing Columbus High on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Auburn has 10 games left on the schedule, including five region games: a pair of matches with region foes Opelika and Smiths Station along with a home rematch with Central.


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