FAYETTEVILLE – Less than two weeks into preseason practice, Arkansas’ soccer team gets its first taste of game action when the Razorbacks play host to Oklahoma on Saturday at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game at Razorback Field.
Third-year head coach Erin Aubry has five starters and 15 letterwinners returning from last year’s team. The 2010 Razorbacks recorded six shutouts, including a 1-0 win over Miami in Florida and a 0-0 double-overtime tie at No. 17 Georgia.
Aubry also has three redshirt freshmen returning to go with 15 newcomers.
The Razorbacks reported and began official workouts on Aug. 3.
"I hate to use the word perfect, but it’s been about as close to perfect as we can get in all aspects," Aubry says of practice. "The work ethic, the talent, and the team mentality, but most importantly, we are laughing and having fun from the beginning to the end of every session. We’re working hard, but the enthusiasm and energy being created in the training sessions, and the fun we’re having together, has been refreshing."
Senior Kailey Anders, junior Allie Chandler and sophomore Jessie Givens have been among those leading the way.
Anders has started all 19 games each of the last two years. Chandler is the top returning scorer on the team with four goals and two assists for 10 points. Givens played in all 19 games as a midfielder with 14 starts. Other returning starters include sophomore defenders Melanie Foncham and Jenn Fryrear.
"We need to work on everything before Saturday," Aubry says. "But I’ve been most surprised with the coach-ability on a day-to-day basis. I think it’s unheard of to go through the preseason and not have one bad practice. We’ve had sessions that were headed in that direction and they pulled themselves out of it. To say that about their training is phenomenal. A month from now, when we get into September and October, that will make a difference."
Facing a quality opponent such as Oklahoma in an exhibition could make a difference, too. The Sooners were 12-8-3 a year ago for head coach Nicole Nelson, including a 5-4-1 mark in the Big 12.
"We compete a lot with Oklahoma in recruiting," Aubry says. "So we know they have players who will have a strong work ethic and with a lot of experience in the youth system. They are part of a great conference and well-coached. This is a great exhibition game for us."
The official season-opener is Friday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. at Razorback Field against SMU, but Aubry knows what she wants to see against the Sooners.
"We need to get sophisticated and organized in playing together," she says. "We need to put some pieces together. We have talent and athleticism on the field and they are kind of working separately. We want to get them all on the same page and they are starting to think alike. We can’t have all of our set pieces perfect by Saturday, but we can start playing as a team."
Season tickets are now available. Renewals are $30 for a 10-game package. First-time purchasers can get tickets for $19 along with a $10 Chartwells coupon, redeemable at these select campus locations: Starbucks, Einsteins, Quiznos, and the Union Food Court Market — where fans can grab a great meal or snack before the game.
For season tickets, go here:
2011 Razorback Soccer Season Tickets