FAYETTEVILLE – Freshman Sarah Gwisdala scored with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation for the University of Arkansas soccer team on Friday night to lead the Lady Razorbacks to a 2-1 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores to open Southeastern Conference play in front of the seventh largest crowd ever at Lady’Back Field.
Arkansas’ win improves the Lady Razorbacks to 5-4-0 overall, but more importantly to 1-0-0 in SEC play to give Arkansas three points in the team standings while Vanderbilt falls to 1-5-1 and 0-1-0 in conference.
“We played a lot of defense tonight,” Arkansas head coach Gordon Henderson said. “Despite that, Sarah and Jenni (Brashear) looked very dangerous all game. It is great to open the SEC schedule up with a win and pick up three points.”
Arkansas got on the board first thanks to the Vanderbilt defense just four minutes into the contest when an errant pass rolled past the Commodores goalkeeper and into the net for an own goal. For the Lady Razorbacks, Gwisdala forced the pass that rolled into the net as she made her mark on the contest from the outset.
Both teams then settled in and a true defensive standoff ensued. With most of the play taking place at midfield, Vanderbilt did manage to break free a few times to take shots, but nothing went at the goal until late in the period. Picking up their intensity, Vanderbilt became the aggressors with 15 minutes to play in the half and the attitude proved fruitful as it forced a corner kick with four minutes remaining.
Setting the ball up, Vanderbilt’s Amy Baumann placed a splendid cross to the far post where junior Meghan Habig put a head on it and sent it to the middle of the mixer where a streaking Susan McAleavey knocked it into the net with her shin to tie the game. The score would remain 1-1 into the half.
The second half played very similar to the first with most of the action taking place at midfield. The Commodores still pushed the pace of action, breaking down Arkansas’ defense several times, but outstanding defense by the Lady Razorbacks kept the game tied. In one instance another Vanderbilt corner kick was headed into the goal, but junior captain Andrea Sparks was guarding the back post and headed the shot clear on what would have surely been a goal. In another tremendous effort, sophomore goalkeeper Carrie Dillsaver made a leaping save, knocking a rifle of a shot over the crossbar for a corner kick. Dillsaver made five saves in the contest.
On its heels, Arkansas used the raucous crowd to its advantage in the closing moments, building momentum and taking most of its six shots in the final 15 minutes. Brashear was Arkansas’ catalyst as she ran by several Vanderbilt defenders forcing them to foul her or conceded a one-on-one opportunity. Then it was Gwisdala’s turn again as she took a feed from junior Megan McCool and split the Commodore defense. Taking a touch she bore down on the Vanderbilt keeper and from 14 yards hit a roller into the bottom left corner of the goal for the game winner at 82:33.
Arkansas’ win over Vanderbilt is its third in three seasons after it had lost eight of the previous nine contests with one tie. The Lady Razorbacks 5-4-0 overall record is its best through nine games since 1993 when it went 6-3-0 over the same time and the conference opening win is the second time in as many years that Arkansas has beaten the Commodores to open the SEC schedule.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Kentucky Wildcats in a key Southeastern Confernce game at 1:00 p.m. at Lady’Back Field. For more information about Lady Razorback soccer or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.