GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The No. 16 Auburn soccer team reached new heights when it defeated No. 9 Florida in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Sunday afternoon, 3-1. The Tigers (17-6-0) advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history and also set a new record for most wins in a single season with the victory.
"First, congratulations to Florida," said head coach Karen Hoppa. "They're a tremendous team, the SEC Tournament champions, and obviously played a great game.
"I'm incredibly proud of our team. I thought we did not play particularly well in the first half. We fought hard and defended well, but we didn't play soccer the way we wanted to and to go into halftime up - credit to Brooke [Ramsier] to get a goal against the run of play - I was really proud of the team and the adjustments they made in the second half."
Kristen Dodson, Bri Folds and Brooke Ramsier each notched a goal in the 90-minute affair to guide the offense. Sarah Le Beau went the distance between the posts and made six saves.
Playing in front of a raucous crowd of 1,152, Auburn had a shaky start out of the gate. The Gators (17-5-1) put in a pair of dangerous efforts in the opening 20 minutes, drawing one Le Beau save, and controlled the possession early on.
However, a counter-attack in the 25th minute changed the whole complexion of the match.
A ball that found the feet of Dodson was then pushed forward into a danger area, but the three surrounding defenders were able to get a foot on it.
The ball, however, ricocheted off a defender and dropped to the feet of Ramsier. The Dallas, Texas native then blasted a volley from 20 yards away to the far-post corner and found the back of the net.
The goal marked Ramsier's second of the weekend and was the 16th point she's secured in her last seven matches.
Auburn maintained a 1-0 lead into the locker room and had only one shot - Ramsier's rocket.
The Tigers roared out of the break after tallying a pair of shots and drawing a corner in the opening two minutes of the second half, but were held in check.
In the 62nd minute, Dodson took a feed over the top of the defense and drew a hard foul in the box that flipped the match heavily in favor of Auburn. The Florida defender was issued a red card and a penalty was given.
Folds then calmly took her first career penalty and fired it into the back of the net to double Auburn's lead to 2-0.
Just 53 seconds later and down a player, the Gators responded by scoring a goal and cutting the margin in half at 2-1.
After a plethora of chances for both squads, Dodson put the match away in the 84th minute.
The junior picked off a pass from Florida and took on three defenders at midfield. Dodson then saw the goalkeeper was off her line and chipped it up and over the final line of defense from 35 yards away to seal the victory.
The Tigers remained compact in the final five minutes and closed out the program-defining win, sending Auburn to its first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals.
"Making it to the Elite Eight with this group is incredible," stated Ramsier. "Credit to all of us because they're such a bond this team has and it really is a family. We fight for each other. We go out there and play 90 minutes for each and every girl on and off the field. It's just a crazy feeling and we're so happy."
Auburn earned its second win in Gainesville this season after topping the Gators 3-0 back in September. In both matches, the Tigers defense held strong, limiting Florida to their lowest two goal-outputs of the season.
"We just stick together and support each other if we get beat," stated senior defender Kiana Clarke. "We cover for each other and pick up after another. We know we have each other to depend on and I think that's a big part of our success today."
Auburn makes its historic debut in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Friday when it travels to No. 3 USC. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.