Soccer at the SEC Tournament: No. 3 Alabama seeks to add tournament to regular season title

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The best regular season in Alabama soccer’s program history has come and gone, but more is on the horizon. Tuesday brings the first of a potential three matches in Pensacola, Florida, with the endgame being the SEC tournament title.

No. 3 Alabama (17-1-1, 10-0 SEC) defeated Auburn on Thursday to become only the third different team to go undefeated without drawing in league play and the first since the South Carolina Gamecocks did it in 2016. That earned the Crimson Tide the top seed in the conference tournament.  

The regular season title was won by Alabama on Sunday, Oct. 23, when the Crimson Tide shut out struggling Florida to clinch a 9-0 conference record.  

At the beginning of the 2022 season, Alabama was picked to finish a respectable fifth in the conference, but the Crimson Tide has since blown that projection out of the water.  

Alabama has won 13 straight matches. Most would agree that there are worse ways to end a regular season than knocking your most hated rival out of conference contention to extend that type of streak.  

The Crimson Tide will enter Pensacola with a host of awards to its name. Head coach Wes Hart was named SEC Coach of the Year. Eight All-SEC selections headline a team with enough talent to still be competing at the very end of the line, but winning in Florida will be pivotal to those pursuits.  

First on the tournament schedule is Mississippi State, a team Alabama hurt with its versatility in a 4-1 win on Oct. 20. Three second-half goals doomed the Bulldogs, and the Crimson Tide recorded scores from four different players. Mississippi State earned the rematch with a 2-1 overtime win over Texas A&M on Sunday.  

The offense for Alabama has been one of the most potent in the country. The 55 goals scored across the roster are the most of any team in the SEC. 12 of those goals belong to Riley Mattingly Parker, whose furious comeback from a 2021 ACL tear earned her the distinction of conference forward of the year. 

There is still a three-way tie for second place in goals scored — Gianna Paul, Reyna Reyes and Ashlynn Serepca each have six. Paul was named SEC Freshman of the Year and Reyes was named SEC Defender of the Year. 

Defensively, the Crimson Tide is as strong as anyone nationally. Goalkeeper McKinley Crone has been critical in five shutouts against conference opposition — half the slate — and directly in front of her is a back line regarded as one of the sport’s best. That back line is anchored by All-SEC selections Reyes and Sasha Pickard, as well as All-Freshman selection Brooke Steere.  

“I think we just needed that little push [beating Auburn] before going into the SEC tournament,” Pickard said. “We didn’t want to end the momentum right before we got there.” 

“The season is not done,” Crone said. “That, I think, is what we need to keep remembering.” 

One of the leaders of the Alabama team this fall has been one of several nightmares for other teams. SEC Midfielder of the Year Felicia Knox has set the single-season program record for assists with 15, and has her sights set on breaking head coach Wes Hart’s college record — as they’re currently tied. Knox has five goals of her own. 

Alabama beat the next-highest two seeds in the SEC tournament by a combined score of 6-2. The Crimson Tide is equipped to play until Sunday and knows it can underestimate no team if it is to hoist yet another trophy during this amazing campaign.  

Kickoff for the rematch with Mississippi State is set for Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 5 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. 

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