FAYETTEVILLE - Head coach Colby Hale and his Arkansas soccer team have had two days of practice, and the Razorbacks aren't wasting any time getting ready for the season.
Hale and his staff were able to work with the Razorbacks during a spring exhibition season, but summer conditioning was crucial for the season.
"The spring was good," Hale says. "We talked about the work they would do in the summer since we're a fall sport. So if you come in unfit, in nine days (of preseason practice), it's hard to recover. They understood if they wanted a chance to help this team win and compete, that coming in in good shape was important and overall we're pleased. The biggest thing has been getting acclimated to the heat because we do play half our games at 1 (p.m.) on Sundays. Training has gone fantastic. The girls came back in good shape and spirits are high."
Early practices have included sessions on offensive and defensive tactics, attacking patterns, and pressuring the ball and staying connected as a group in the defensive backfield.
"We're imprinting what we're going to be about," Hale says of the first few practices. "This is our general style of play, this is our tempo. Everything we're doing is at a really high tempo. We want them to understand the pace of the game and get a little fitness in."
Hale has 20 letterwinners and six starters back from last year's team. Midfielders Andrea Carlson and Allie Chandler are the senior leaders. Returning starters are Chandler, sophomore midfielder Tyler Allen, sophomore defender Kaylyn Cooper, sophomore forward Jeriann Okoro, sophomore forward Beth Stratton and sophomore midfielder Sam Wolf.
"The upperclassmen and all the returnees went through our spring, and that helped," Hale says. "It was a good time to set expectations. They understand we expect high things. One of our mottos is to exceed expectations. No matter how high I set it, my expectation is that they set it higher for themselves."
Highlights from the spring included a 2-0 shutout win at Tulsa, a 3-0 win in the annual Alumni Game against former Razorbacks and a 1-1 tie at Saint Louis. The Razorbacks improved their goals against average from last season by allowing 1.57 per game.
Arkansas plays an exhibition game on Saturday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m. at Oklahoma State. The Razorbacks open the regular season with three consecutive home games. Austin Peay is the opener at 7 p.m. on Aug. 17, followed by Texas on Aug. 19 at 1 p.m. and Missouri State at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22.
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