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AUBURN, Alabama–Coach Karen Hoppa said on Tuesday she is hopeful that the first intercollegiate athletic competition on the Auburn University campus since the March shutdown due to the covid-19 outbreak will go smoothly when her Auburn soccer team plays host to Mississippi State on Friday evening.
Hoppa said on Tuesday that she anticipates her team will be “at full strength” for its 6 p.m. CDT match at the Auburn Soccer Complex. However, nothing will be certain until closer to game time with all of the players, coaches and training staff being tested three times a week for covid-19 beginning this week. “Three times a week on both sides of the nose,” the coach noted.
“Our team has done a great job of controlling what they can control to try to mitigate any exposure,” Hoppa said. “They are not doing anything socially other than with the team and they are really limiting themselves so we really haven’t had very many people miss practice–knock on wood–due to covid so that has been good.”
“Now that we are in game week, we will follow the SEC protocols with our players and staff being tested three times a week–everybody who is going to be on the field and on the bench. It is three times a week through a third party company so prior to game week it was our medical staff handling it. Now there is a third party company testing all of the SEC–three times a week on both sides of the nose.”
Friday’s game will kick off the SEC Network’s coverage of live events for the 2020-21 season. Attendance at the season opener will be limited to a pass list of family members along with Auburn University students. Face coverings are required for fans and game day staff. Fans are requested to sit in designated areas marked by signage to set up social distancing.
“It feels really magnified,” Hoppa said of the season opener with the circumstances of being the first Auburn sporting event since March in addition to it being a season opener without the benefit of a spring training.
The Auburn soccer team walks on to the field to prepare for a team practice. (Photo: Shanna Lockwood)
The Auburn and Mississippi State teams won’t know until game day if everybody on their rosters is cleared to play.
“All of the (SEC) teams will do rapid tests,” Hoppa said. “It is still a work in progress, but I believe the visiting team will do the rapid test before they get on the bus to leave their campus and the home team will do the rapid test on game day. That is the way I understand it as of today. It could certainly change, but our final test is on game day.”
The Tigers will play an eight-game fall schedule vs. SEC teams. The league tournament is scheduled for Nov. 13-22 at Orange Beach. Normally a fall sport, plans are being considered to have the NCAA Tournament following a spring season. Hoppa said details of the spring season are still being worked out with the possibility of the Tigers playing up to a dozen games in the spring prior to postseason competition that would conclude with a national championship game in May.
The soccer opener comes eight days ahead of the home opener for the football season vs. Kentucky. Unlike the soccer team, Coach Gus Malzahn’s team has had issues regarding player availability at practices due to either positive covid-19 tests or players having close contact with others who tested positive