BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- The Samford soccer team will once again make history Friday night as the Bulldogs host the Alabama Crimson Tide at 7 p.m., at Bulldog Field. It marks the first time in the 13-year existence of the Samford soccer program that the Bulldogs will host Alabama. Last week, Samford hosted the 25th-ranked Auburn Tigers and earned a 0-0 draw in front of a school-record 1,264 fans.
"I expect the atmosphere to be fantastic out there again and it should be a quality match," said Samford head coach Todd Yelton. "The way that we played and the commitment we showed Sunday night against Auburn will certainly help us in preparation for this match. I also think that a lot of the fans that were there will want to come back and watch us play again."
Samford (0-0-1), with its scoreless tie versus Auburn on Sunday, opened the season with a draw for the first time in school history. Last year, the Bulldogs finished the campaign with a total of three ties. Since Yelton took the reins of the Samford soccer program in 2002, the Bulldogs have compiled an 11-4-18 record in overtime matches.
Sophomore goalkeeper Alyssa Whitehead tied her career-high total with nine saves against Auburn. The Bulldogs' 6-foot-3 native of Hattiesburg, Miss., also registered nine saves versus the eighth-ranked Texas Longhorns in last year's season-opening contest.
"Right now, our team just needs to build on each match and continue to get better," Yelton said. "Against Auburn, we played extremely well defensively, but we weren't too effective going forward in the attack. I expect that to get better as the season goes on, especially once we implement more of it in practice."
Alabama (0-1) opened its season with a 2-0 home loss to UAB on Aug. 21. UAB then turned around and knocked off another Southeastern Conference opponent Sunday by defeating Ole Miss, 1-0. Samford and UAB will square off in its cross-town rivalry Sept. 10 at West Campus Field.
"Having Alabama and Auburn play at our place is huge, because it shows the strides that this program has taken," said Yelton. "We always want to measure ourselves against the best teams in the state and that's why we're competing against the likes of Auburn, Alabama and UAB. Tomorrow's match is going to be a good measuring stick for us and hopefully we'll be able to get a positive result."
The Crimson Tide rattled off nine shot attempts against UAB in its season-opener, but none of the shots were able to find the target. Junior midfielder Rosaly Petriello led the way with three attempts, one of which was on-goal.
"Todd Bramble is doing a fantastic job with Alabama's program," Yelton said. "He has a really young team right now, but he's bringing in a lot of talent and he's a very good coach. After their loss to UAB, I have no doubt that Alabama is going to come in here and play like a very committed team. We played them last year and it was a very tough contest, so I know that we will get their best shot."
Friday's match will only be the second all-time meeting between Samford and Alabama. Last season, the teams faced off for the first time in history and the Crimson Tide rallied for a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
Following Friday's home match against Alabama, the Samford University soccer team will next be in action Sunday at 2 p.m., as the Bulldogs host the Francis Marion Patriots at Bulldog Field.