The Samford Bulldogs are taking home yet another Southern Conference title, just three weeks after winning the SoCon regular season championship.
The Bulldogs (15-3-2, 9-0-0) began the tournament with a convincing 2-0 victory over Chattanooga. Their semifinal victory was a tight, uber-late 1-0 win over Mercer.
After 88 minutes of a scoreless gridlock against Mercer, senior Zoë Perrin found the back of the net and advanced her Bulldogs to the tournament finals.
The finals match would be between Samford and the Furman Paladins. This match meant more to the Bulldogs than a chance to win a conference tournament.
Last season, Furman defeated Samford in the SoCon Tournament finals in overtime, 2-1. In the pre-season polls for this season, Furman was ranked in first place and the Bulldogs were ranked in second place.
In typical Samford style, the Bulldogs convincingly finished off the Paladins. This game silenced the rankings, and once again proved head coach Todd Yelton’s dominance in the Southern Conference.
“It set a standard for the years to come as an example of what this program can do under coach Yelton,” Perrin said. “We always preach using soccer as a tool to show how much we love one another, and the work we had to put in the tournament allowed us to do just that.”
In their matchup with Furman, standout midfielder Mary Raymond scored two goals, with Ella Simpson and Alyssa Frazier each adding a goal as well. The final score was 4-2, Bulldogs.
Yelton, who has been the Samford head coach since 2002, has now won four SoCon tournaments. He has also won nine SoCon regular season titles, eight of which are consecutively from 2014 to 2021.
The team’s high-powered offense has been led by the midfielder duo of Mary Raymond and Alyssa Frazier. Raymond leads the team in goals (8) and Fraizer sits just behind in second (7).
Raymond, a junior from Florida, took home the Most Outstanding Player award from the tournament. She was also placed on the All-Tournament team along with fellow Bulldogs Ella Simpson, Kylie Gazza and Morgan McAslan.
On Nov. 8, the NCAA Selection Show announced that the Bulldogs would be playing the Auburn Tigers in the first round. The Tigers are the fourth seed in their bracket region.
After an incredible 2021 season, are the stars aligned for an upset victory for Samford University?
The Bulldogs and the Tigers have already met once this year in both teams’ season openers. It was a closely contested battle where a late goal from Auburn’s Anna Haddock gave the Tigers a 2-1 victory. These teams also met in 2019, which ended in a 3-3 draw.
This regular season contest proved that not only can Yelton’s squad hang with the best, they have a chance to beat the best.
“Auburn was our first game of the year, and since then, this team has only gotten better,” Perrin added. “Since playing them, we have also played some quality teams like Alabama, Ole Miss, and Texas. Those games have taught us more about ourselves and given us confidence going into this game. If we approach Friday with the right mindset, and simply play our game, we have a good chance of making a run.”
Lastly, the Bulldogs are hot while the Tigers are not. Samford has won an astounding twelve games in a row, while Auburn has only won one game out of their last five (South Carolina). Their most recent game was a 5-1 loss against Arkansas in the SEC tournament.
The Samford Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers will face off on Friday, Nov. 12 at 5 p.m. in Auburn, Alabama. If the Bulldogs pull off the upset, they will play the winner of Brown University vs St. John’s on Nov. 19.