No. 3 Alabama tangles with Mississippi State for division crown

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The Alabama soccer team has risen to the top spot in some polls — and will have the chance Thursday, Oct. 20, to add an SEC West crown to the incredible 2022 season. 

This season’s rise from unranked to No. 3 for Alabama (14-1-1, 7-0 SEC) has included 10 straight wins and an unbeaten home record. Awaiting the Crimson Tide next is Mississippi State in Starkville, with the winner laying claim to the division. 

Alabama took a thrilling 2-1 victory over then-No. 7 Arkansas on Sunday. A late penalty kick goal from forward Ashlynn Serepca sealed the deal. The win was the Crimson Tide’s fifth over a top-25 team and third over a top-10 team.  

Mississippi State (10-2-3, 4-2-1 SEC) has just one win in its last four tries. Most recently, the Bulldogs got back on the winning track with a 1-0 triumph over in-state rival Ole Miss. Being a double-digit win team in the SEC is not easy, but that’s how Mississippi State put itself in position for one of the biggest upsets of the season. 

“Mississippi State is a tough team,” Alabama head coach Wes Hart said. “It’s going to be a physical, challenging battle. They’re a very physical team. A lot [is] at stake.” 

The Crimson Tide came into the week ranked at the top in the TopDrawerSoccer poll. In addition to that, the team is also No. 1 in rating percentage index, up from No. 213 in Hart’s first season. 

Mississippi State can play the role of spoiler, but it won’t be easy. Alabama showed that even when it is challenged offensively, it can rise to the occasion and make things difficult for the opponent. 

Alabama’s road success has been significantly improved from playing in hostile territory in 2021. That has included wins over BYU, Tennessee, Georgia and others.  

“I wish I could say that there was one particular thing that we did and that fixed it,” Hart said. “Truth of the matter is, we had some tough games last year. This year [we are] more confident. I think winning a couple games early on, we brought the momentum and carried that on.” 

Unlike Alabama, Mississippi State has been dealt a home defeat this season. South Carolina beat the Bulldogs 1-0 on Oct. 6. Alabama carries a 6-1-1 road record into the contest, one of its most important of the season. 

Mississippi State’s goal leader is forward Maggie Wadsworth with seven goals this season. The streak of opposing leading scorers failing to match Alabama forward Riley Mattingly Parker continues. On a similar note, their assists leader only has four, a far cry from Crimson Tide record-setting midfielder Felicia Knox. The Crimson Tide offense will likely come back into its own after tough sledding against Arkansas. 

Meanwhile, expect the defense to be at its best with so much on the line. Many top teams have found themselves unable to get through a back line that is squarely among college soccer’s best. 

The 2022 season has been one of huge accomplishments, both individual and team, for the Crimson Tide. A division title is far from the extent of Alabama’s goals but would be one major testament to how far the group has come. 

Kickoff for the match is set for 6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]