FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ soccer team closes its four-game road stretch this week with Southeastern Conference games at Alabama on Friday and at Auburn on Sunday.
The Alabama game kicks off at 7:05 p.m. and is being televised by Fox Sports Net, which is Fox Sports Southwest in Arkansas. Sunday’s game at Auburn is at 2 p.m. Both games are scheduled to be broadcast on KXUA radio.
The Razorbacks are third in the Western Division and tied for eighth overall. The top eight teams advance to the SEC Tournament.
Alabama is 6-6-2 overall and 1-4-1 in the SEC. The Crimson Tide was 8-8-2 overall and 3-6-2 last year. Alabama leads the all-time series 11-5-2, including 6-2-1 in Tuscaloosa, but in 2009, the last time Arkansas played at Alabama, the Razorbacks battled to a 0-0, double-overtime tie.
Auburn enters the week 9-4-1 overall and 3-3-0 in the SEC, and is No. 22 in the nation in the latest RPI rankings. The Tigers were 11-8-2 overall and 5-4-2 last year. Auburn also leads the series 11-5-2 with a 7-1-0 lead in Alabama.
"Both games are going to be tough," head coach Erin Aubry says. "There is the opportunity for us to gain some points, but we obviously have to overcome our halftime dilemma of getting scored on and respond correctly to that. We’re not really fighting back when that happens. These games are a tremendous opportunity for us, but we need to take care of that mental aspect."
The Razorbacks were on the road last week, taking Kentucky to overtime before dropping a 2-1 decision and losing at Vanderbilt, 2-0. Kentucky is No. 10 in the nation in the RPI rankings. Arkansas got off to a good start in both games, leading UK, 1-0, at the half and tied with Vanderbilt, 0-0, at the break.
"We had two very strong first halves," Aubry says. "We, for the most part, dominated the run of play. The problem was we came out at halftime and we were a different team. We came out (in the first half) with a lot of energy and we were extremely organized in the back defensively. We were paying attention to detail and shape on our back line, and our midfield did a tremendous job of connecting passes. We kept the ball, built an attack and got into goal a lot, but we hit posts and the bar, and just missed by inches."
In SEC statistics, Arkansas is third in the league with 5.77 saves per game, and the defense has steadily improved all year. After allowing 23 goals, 3.29 per game, in seven non-conference games, the Razorbacks have cut that number to 10, 1.67 per game, in six conference contests.
Offensively, junior forward Allie Chandler is second in the league in shots per game with 4.54. In SEC play only, she leads the league with 6.33 per game.
Senior forward Kailey Anders leads the club with four goals, two assists, 10 points, 22 shots on goal, two game-winning goals and a .489 shots on goal percentage. Freshman Beth Stratton is second with two goals, and third with 23 shots and 11 shots on goal. Chandler is first with 59 shots, second with 21 shots on goal and third with a .356 shots on goal percentage.
Over the last three games, Chandler leads the team with 21 shots and seven shots on goal.
"She loves the SEC and the competition level, and she rises to a different level," Aubry says. "She’s peaking in her fitness and she’s feeling a sense of freedom. Allie is being crafty, creative and going to goal. She’s released the pressure she felt, and is just playing and enjoying it."