ORANGE BEACH, Ala.- For the third time since 2013, the Razorback soccer team has advanced to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals after defeating nine-seed Ole Miss Sunday afternoon, 1-0, at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.
With the win, Arkansas moves on to face top-seed South Carolina on Tuesday at 5 p.m. It will be the second time the Razorbacks have faced the Gamecocks this season. South Carolina came away with the 2-0 victory in Fayetteville on Oct. 8.
“We know this is how postseason soccer is going to be,” Arkansas head coach Colby Hale said. “We knew in the second half, Ole Miss was going to bring it. There were some moments there, but I thought we managed it well. We got back to who we are, and that’s to grind it out.”
Freshman Taylor Malham scored her sixth goal of the year in the 32nd minute and it was the only goal Arkansas needed as its defense played to its ninth shutout of the year. For Malham, it was her second goal in as many matches and gives her 13 points this season.
Defensively, Arkansas withstood an offensive onslaught from the Rebels as they totaled 14 shots in the game, six in the final 20 minutes. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jordan Harris earned every bit of her sixth victory of the year as she made a season-high five saves and secured her sixth shutout.
“This was huge,” Harris said. “We really needed that. I think going into this everybody knew we needed it. I kept telling myself at the end there to stay focused. I probably tell myself that at least 1,000 times during the game. When we’re tired, that’s when mistakes happen. We just had to keep the ball in front and keep working for it.”
As a team, Arkansas moves to 10-9-1 overall for its ninth 10-win season in school history and third under head coach Colby Hale. Eight of Arkansas’ 10 wins and nine of its’ results have come in the form of a shutout. The nine clean sheets are the most since 2009.
On Malham’s winning goal, freshman Haley VanFossen sent in a perfectly placed free kick from near midfield and found the head of Kayla McKeon. McKeon was able to deflect the ball behind her where Malham was onsides and beat the Ole Miss defender near the right post before finished with the right foot.
Ole Miss didn’t go down without a fight in the second half. On numerous occasions, the Rebels got a look at the net, but each time the Arkansas defense was able to clear it away or Harris came up with a big save.
In the 80th minute, Ole Miss’ best chance might have come on a header from Molly Martin. Martin, near the left post, received a cross in and got a shot in that looked to have a clear path to the net. But, Harris made a great save to her left to keep the shutout alive.
Now, Arkansas sets it sights on the top-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks with the quarterfinal matchup set for Tuesday at 5 p.m. on the SEC Network. For Hale and his team, the main goal between now and then is to rest and recover.
“It’s all about rest and recovery,” Hale said. “The girl’s legs will be heavy, but we’ll get some massages and just get ready for the next game. It’s less prep at this point and more about recovery.”
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