– The University of Arkansas soccer team tied Duke in the Sweet 16 at the NCAA Tournament, 2-2, before falling in penalty kicks, 5-3. It was the first time the Razorbacks faced penalty kicks this season.
A historic razorback soccer season took Arkansas to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, picking up wins over Oklahoma State and St. John’s to advance to the Sweet 16. The Razorbacks battled from behind twice in the third round NCAA matchup, but two scoreless overtime periods would send the game to penalty kicks where Duke took the win, 5-3.
The Razorback (15-8-1) defense was working hard against the Blue Devil (10-8-5) offense in the first half, as Duke fired off nine shots during the first 45 minutes of play. It wasn’t until the 36th minute, when a pass from Christina Gibbons found Kim DeCesare and the Blue Devils took a 1-0 lead. Cameron Carter picked up four saves in the first half and the Razorback back line was relentless in holding off some dangerous chances by Duke.
The second half saw a spark in the Arkansas offense as they Razorbacks would fight back from two separate deficits. Trailing, 1-0, in the 67th minute, a corner kick by Allie Tripp found the head of Ashleigh Ellenwood in the box who sent the ball to the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1. But Duke would answer as DeCesare picked up her second goal of the game to take a 2-1 lead in the 73rd minute. Just two minutes later, the second half surge would continue for the Razorbacks as Ellenwood connected with Alexandria Fischer for the goal and Arkansas tied it up again, 2-2.
“It was an exciting game and I thought indicative of this group” said Head Coach Colby Hale. “We were down and fought back twice. That’s just how this team does it. We can play from behind as well as any team in the country. Nothing fazes them."
With both teams unable to score in the final minutes of regulation, the Razorbacks and Blue Devils headed to overtime. Several chances for both teams were held off by battling defenses and the match moved to penalty kicks. Duke earned the win in penalty kicks, 5-3, ending a historic ride for the Razorbacks.
“We had great leadership this season and some young players stepped up late,” Hale said of his team’s depth. “Anyone, at any moment, could step up and win games for us. They fight and battle and let the results take care of themselves."
Ellenwood picked up her 14th goal of the season against the Blue Devils, while Fischer’s game-tying goal marked her third of the season. Cameron Carter stood behind a tough Razorback defense Sunday afternoon, recording 12 saves to tie her season-high. The Arkansas defense held the Blue Devils to just two goals in 26 attempts.
“It’s not the prettiest, and we’re not going to get a lot of style points, but they battle for 90 minutes, or 110 – however long it takes,” said Hale. “We are super proud of the girls and they know it. Their heads are high and they know they played well.
The Razorbacks end the record-setting 2013 season at 15-8-1, a program-best for Razorback Soccer.