STARKVILLE - In the highly anticipated 2023 SEC Soccer Opener, the Dawgs met with a very familiar foe in the Tigers of Auburn on a Starkville Friday night. As the sun began its descent over the MSU Soccer Field, the stands were filled with the Maroon and White faithful while the buzz of the West End resonated around the pitch. It was time for kickoff, and it was a Dawgs Day indeed.
The scoring action was limited in the first half, with both teams showcasing solid defensive performances. Auburn struggled to generate scoring opportunities, managing only two shots in the first half. MSU, on the other hand, displayed their attacking prowess with eight shots in the opening 45 minutes.
After the half, State continued its relentless attack, getting into the defensive third at will and registering shot after shot on goal in front of a West End who gathered behind Auburn's Maddie Prohaska racked up seven saves throughout the match. State had been on the attack all night, however, the match was looking to end in a hard-fought 0-0 stalemate. In the 88th minute, that narrative changed.
With the clock winding down, State took a throw-in at midfield that Aitana Martinez-Montoya was able to corral and head towards goal with. Martinez-Montoya had a step on the defender and was looked to send the Dawgs home happy. As the cowbells reached their crescendo and the crowd looked for the game-winner, Haley McWhirter had found a seam down the left sideline and was ready for her moment. The junior took advantage of the through pass by Martinez-Montoya and sent the Dawgs home happy as State's eighth shot on goal on the night found the back of the net with only 1:22 left on the clock.
The Bulldog faithful was able to witness the Dawgs win again in historic numbers as the 1,156 in attendance marks the eighth highest attendance in MSU Soccer history.
State (6-1-2) outshot the Tigers (4-3-2) 16-5 throughout the contest and led Auburn in corner kicks 9-2. McWhirter accounted for four shots and three shots on goal as well as secured her fourth game-winning goal in her career.
Head Coach James Armstrong
On the Atmosphere Friday Night "When we first came here it was very important to us and to the players as well to achieve a great soccer atmosphere. So, we continue to work and put things like the West End sign up, and make improvements to our facilities. We went to the frats the other night and Coach Nick [Zimmerman] did a great job being the hype guy for that. It is just awesome here. The energy around campus today was unbelievable and for them to bring that energy here, you just have to smile. It just gives you goosebumps. You cannot thank everyone enough. The community was here, the Greek life was here, the students were here, and the international students were awesome. It is just such a unique blend of people, which makes it extra special."
Junior Midfielder Haley McWhirter
On her Goal "I think we fought really hard during the whole game, and we deserved a goal. We were just so close, and it came in the last two minutes. That's when it came in and we took advantage of it."
State will return to the pitch for another exciting home matchup with Texas A&M on Thursday. The match is slated for a 6:30 p.m. kick-off and will be streamed via SEC Network Plus.