FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ soccer team officially starts its season on Friday when the Razorbacks play host to SMU at 7 p.m. at Razorback Field.
Arkansas had a good warmup on Saturday with an exhibition game at home against Oklahoma. Third-year head coach Erin Aubry played 20 Razorbacks, including 17 freshmen and sophomores, and took the Sooners to overtime before falling 3-2.
"We did a good job, but there were clearly a lot of nerves in the first half," Aubry says. "By the second half, they were in a rhythm and were confident. We had a great talk at halftime. I think the second half was a better indicator of our talent and how we’ll compete this season."
Aubry’s roster includes a total of 33 student-athletes, but 27 are freshmen and sophomores. Five starters and 15 letterwinners are back from last season.
"We are young, but we have energy," senior forward Kailey Anders says. "We told the younger players before the season we need them to step up because they have roles on the field and off. It was exciting to see seven freshman starting and take Oklahoma to overtime."
SMU was 11-7-4 a year ago for head coach Brent Erwin, including a 6-4-1 mark in Conference USA. The Mustangs lead the all-time series 10-1, but the teams have not met since 2000.
"SMU is in a very soccer-rich area," Aubry says. "They are well-coached and have a lot of good players. They will be just as good, if not better, than Oklahoma. We’re excited to play them and to be home for the opener."
Arkansas is 13-11-1 all-time in season-openers and has won four straight. Last year, Allie Chandler had the game-winner in a 1-0 home victory over Florida International.
"We know we have to come together and prepare," Anders says. "We have confidence if we take care of everything in practice, we’ll be ready."
In the exhibition, OU scored first, but Arkansas rallied to tie the game 1-1 at the half and led 2-1 in the second period. Anders scored the team’s second goal, and led the team with five shots and four shots on goal.
"The growth we made in one game was tremendous," Aubry says. "We need to focus on being organized on defense."
Following the SMU game, Arkansas is on the road for Sunday’s 1 p.m. contest at Kansas.