FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – With Sunday’s game tied, 3-3, Kathleen Paulsen knocked a bicycle kick from eight yards out past the Oral Roberts goalkeeper to give Arkansas (2-1) the lead once and for all. The junior midfielder’s heroics came in the 81st minute of the game at Razorback Field and ended a see-saw second half that included two ties and two lead changes.
Paulsen was positioned inside the 18-yard box underneath a ball that had been popped up. She settled the ball with her back to the goal and went up to knock the ball over the outstretched arms of ORU keeper Amanda Wheeler.
“I just saw it up in the air and I was thinking this is the perfect opportunity,” Paulsen said. “So I just decided to step out there and try it. I almost tried one last Friday, but I would have kicked the girl in the face so I decided not to, but this time I went for it.”
The game-winning score was the final goal of a back-and-forth affair that saw Arkansas dominate possession and Oral Roberts capitalize on its few opportunities. The Razorbacks outshot their opponents, 19-5, but Oral Roberts was more efficient, scoring on three of those five shots.
“Credit our opponents for three fantastic strikes,” head coach Gordon Henderson said. “Then you have a look at the four goals we scored and there wasn’t a scrappy, bad goal in the bunch. So to win the game with a bicycle kick, it’s just fantastic stuff. I can’t (remember Arkansas’ last bicycle) and I can’t remember the last time I was involved in a 4-3 game either.”
Arkansas opened the scoring with an 18-yard strike from Kim Schleif that found its way to the back post and into the net at the 7:44 mark. She was set up for the goal by Sophie Wentz. Schleif would pick up an assist of her own in the second half on a goal by O’Connor that gave UA a 3-2 lead.
Schleif posted a three-point performance and seemed to be involved in a majority of the Razorbacks opportunities. Henderson said the junior from San Antonio has been putting in the work to become more consistent on the field and is starting to reap those benefits.
“(Kim) had a very good game today,” Henderson said. “She’s one of those players that when she’s on, it makes such a huge difference to our team. When she’s on like she was today, she’s very hard to stop.”
The Golden Eagles evened the match on an unassisted goal by Kaycie Porter. On the play, Porter brought the ball into Arkansas territory and took a shot from 25 yards out to the right of Razorback goalkeeper Britni Williams. The ball moved from right to left and got past Williams.
At the 56:24 mark, Oral Roberts took the lead, 2-1 when Maria Grados found the back of the net with a strike of her own.
The Razorbacks responded with two goals scored with two minutes of each other. Beth McVean tied the score, 2-2, at the 63:56 mark when a ball played into the box bysenior midfielder Abbey Wilburn bounced off the bar and deflected to her. McVean got under the ball to flick it over Wheeler for the score.
Less than two minutes later, Schleif found a cutting O’Connor who had worked her way deep inside the box. The Bentonville, Ark., native poked the ball into the net for a 3-2 Arkansas lead and her first goal of the season. O’Connor missed a similar opportunity earlier in the second half.
“It’s something we’ve worked on: getting in the box,” O’Connor said. “Kim played a great ball and you just have to throw yourself at the ball when it’s in the box and I went ahead and got it.”
Oral Roberts (0-2) took advantage of a 20-yard free kick out front of the Razorback’s net. Tara Lomas lifted the ball over three Arkansas defenders and past a diving Williams to square the match again with 18:24 remaining in the game.
Paulsen’s goal came with 9:01 left on the game clock.
“Looking at the 4-3 score, I can’t fault the backline for any of those goals,” Henderson said. “Sometimes sports are like that. I think these past couple of games, our team has had to deal with some funny things happening. At the end of the day, should we have put more into the back of the net? Yes, we missed a couple from inside a yard, but we scored four, came back from being down a goal, fought through some strange things happening on the field and at the end of the day, we certainly earned that win.”
For Henderson, the Razorbacks also found the balance of execution and energy he was looking for. He said that’s the difference between the loss to Tulsa and Sunday’s victory.
“I thought we played soccer Friday night, but didn’t compete,” Henderson said. “I thought today that we played soccer and competed at the same time. That’s a nice difference to see.”
With the win, Arkansas splits its home-opening weekend and goes into a four-game road stretch. Next weekend, the Razorbacks will travel to Jacksonville, Ala., to participate in the Jacksonville State Tournament. Visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com for more details and to follow Arkansas soccer.