FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas' soccer team gets its spring exhibition season underway with two games in Tulsa on Saturday.
The Razorbacks face Oral Roberts at 12:30 p.m. and Tulsa at 4:30 p.m. Both games are at the University of Tulsa.
Hale is in his first season as head coach after taking over the program in December. He came to Fayetteville after nine years as an assistant coach at Central Florida, including the last five as associate head coach. His staff includes assistant coaches Ben Strawbridge and Mario Rincon.
"As a new staff, we are excited to see them in this environment," Hale says. "I think the players are ready to compete as well. We will play ORU in a modified match with 30-minute halves first. Then have a short break and play Tulsa in a full 90-minute match."
Hale and his staff are looking for a good performance, but also want to spread around playing time and measure individual progress.
"In the spring it is really less about scouting the opponent and more about individual development, imprinting our style on both sides of the ball and finding some important on-the-field relationships moving forward," he says. "We have talked a lot about small group defending and what our attacking rhythm should look like. We will be evaluating where we are in those areas. Everyone will play and I am sure they are excited to show well."
In his nine years at UCF, Hale helped the Knights to 130 wins (130-50-22) with six conference championships (four Conference USA, two Atlantic Sun), seven NCAA Tournament bids and eight wins in the postseason. In seven years in Conference USA, UCF was 56-11-9 with four league titles.
In three years at Oral Roberts prior to going to UCF, Hale helped lead the Golden Eagles to 38 wins and a pair of conference titles. Academically, all 12 teams he's worked with as a coach have recorded team grade point averages of 3.0 or better.
In Hale's nine seasons at UCF, including the last five as associate head coach, the Knights had 19 wins or ties against teams ranked in the top 25, ended the year ranked among the top 25 in the RPI ratings six times and ranked in the top 25 in scoring six times with 398 totals goals scored for an average of 44 per season.
As the recruiting coordinator, he brought in six classes ranked among the nation's best, including the No. 24 class in 2006 and the No. 39 class in 2008.
The highlight of Hale's time in Orlando was in 2011 when the Knights reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament with wins over Florida International, No. 20 Florida and No. 19 North Carolina before falling to No. 6 Wake Forest. UCF finished 13-5-6, and ranked No. 12 in the nation in the National Soccer Coaches Association Continental Tire poll and No. 20 in the RPI rankings against the 11th-toughest schedule in the nation.
Following this weekend's exhibition games, the Razorbacks are off until April 7 when they face Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. at Razorback Field. The Alumni Game is set for April 14 at 1 p.m. at Razorback Field.