FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ soccer team plays its Southeastern Conference home openers this weekend as the Razorbacks entertain No. 18 Kentucky and South Carolina at Razorback Field.
Arkansas plays host to Kentucky on Friday at 7 p.m. and South Carolina on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Single-game tickets are $4 while fans 17 years and younger are admitted free.
Friday is Hispanic Heritage Night. The university, Univision and La Zona Deportiva encourage the Hispanic community to come out and support the Razorbacks. As part of the observance, game announcements will be made in both English and Spanish.
Fans are also encouraged to check out Mexican Mariachi "Mariachi Tamazula" in the Greek Theater on campus from 2-4 p.m. The event is sponsored by UP Cultures and Concepts, and New Student and Family Programs.
Soccer fans can have their photo taken with Razorback mascots at Razorback Field from 6-7 p.m. and enter drawings for prizes, including tickets to Saturday’s football game against Rutgers and a signed ball from the soccer team.
Friday is also Greek Night with sororities encouraged to attend.
Sunday is Junior Razorback Day and "Local.Sustainable.Arknasas Day." Junior Razorback members are invited to get autographs from the Razorbacks following the game. "Local.Sustainable.Arkansas." supports those who address Greater Fayetteville’s water, food, health, housing and education needs.
Kentucky comes in 7-1-0 overall and 2-0-0 in the SEC, and ranked No. 18 in the nation by Soccer America. Following games against No. 1 Florida State and No. 22 Ole Miss, UK is the third ranked opponent for the Razorbacks in four games.
"That’s the best team Kentucky has ever had," Arkansas head coach Colby Hale says. "They are mobile, technical and dynamic. They are good defending and good attacking. This is a big challenge for us. They just beat Florida and will contend for the SEC championship."
Kentucky is tied for third in the SEC with five shutouts in eight games and is fourth with just five goals allowed.
Arkansas opened SEC play last week with two road games, a 4-1 loss at No. 22 Ole Miss and a 2-0 setback at Georgia. Despite the scores, Hale continues to see his team improve.
"We were pretty good," he says of the game at Ole Miss. "We had a chance a couple minutes in and if we finish that play, it probably changes the course of the game. We created several good chances. There are things we have to correct, but between the 18s, there were a lot of positives."
Hale was especially pleased with the first half at Georgia, a 0-0 tie in which Arkansas and the Bulldogs were even with five shots each.
"That may have been our best 45 minutes of the season," he says. "Travel is tough, but we told the kids that doesn’t matter. We have to grind through that and put together a full 90 minutes. Neither goal we gave up was good. You can’t give good teams goals. We have to make them earn them and we didn’t do that."
Sophomore keeper Kelly Roliard recorded a career-high six saves against Georgia. Of the 30 she has for the season, 16 have been in the last three games. Roliard is fifth in the SEC in saves.
Kentucky recorded a 2-1 overtime win over Arkansas in Lexington last year. In 2010, the last time UK visited Fayetteville, Arkansas topped the Wildcats 2-0. UK leads the series 11-4-2, but it’s tied in Fayetteville, 3-3-1.
Arkansas is 7-10-1 all-time in conference home openers.
"We trained on Monday and it was fantastic," Hale says. "In rebuilding the program and changing the culture, I’m very, very pleased. The results are going to come, but we want to make sure that we are playing to win the games. We’re working on the result being the focus of what we do."