JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Sophie Wentz flicked a shot over the head of Samford goalkeeper Cayley Winters at the 107:36 mark to lift the Razorback soccer team to a 1-0 victory Sunday in the championship match of the 2008 adidas Gamecock Classic. Arkansas (4-1) finished the weekend tournament with two wins, both of the shutout variety.
“It took a special goal to win this game,” head coach Gordon Henderson said. “It was a great flick by Kelly O’Connor; smaller than the player she was up against but she just wanted the ball more. What a composed goal by Wentz who was holding off a defender the whole time. It was a quality goal.”
On the game-winning play, sophomore Kelly O’Connor centered a ball to Wentz who outran a Samford defender to the ball. While holding the trailing player off, Wentz lofted a shot over the opposing keeper and into the goal from 12 yards out. It is the first goal of the season for the Fayetteville native.
“It really was a blur,” Wentz said. “I saw the defender was coming at me from my right side, so I had to kick it with my left foot and it just curved into the upper right corner.”
In the first overtime, Samford registered the only two shots. The Bulldogs’ Amber Cress got off a shot from about 15 yards out headed for the back post. Arkansas keeper Britni Williams dove to her left to make the save at the 94:30 mark. The Razorbacks had a scoring chance, but the touch from Abbey Wilburn to Wentz was too far ahead and Winters came out to make the stop.
In the second half, the Razorbacks outshot their opponent, 7-4, but still couldn’t find the back of the net. The Samford goalkeeper finished the game with five saves.
At the 75:48 mark, Samford had a free-kick opportunity, but Arkansas keeper Britni Williams came out to grab the ball among a crowd to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard. Williams finished the game with two saves and her third shutout of the season. This was the Razorbacks’ first game of the season against a 2007 NCAA Tournament team.
“It was a really physical game,” Wentz said of the contest that featured 38 combined fouls. “We battled the entire time and I think type of game showed our mental toughness because we didn’t back down even when they were controlling the game.”
Each squad tallied a team save in the second half that preserved the shutout. At the 70:27 mark, Lauren Hallauer headed a shot toward the opposing goal that was saved and cleared by the Bulldog backline. Then, with 1:12 remaining in the game, Samford’s Hilary Samuels took a shot that bounced by Williams, but with players hanging back, the ballw as stopped and cleared out of the box.
“This was not only the kind of game we expected, but also the kind of game we needed,” Henderson said. “Samford is a quality opponent that has made it to the NCAA Tournament (two of the past three years) and earned that right as an at-large team. They have played very, very well against SEC opponents. What you saw today was a very good college soccer match between two programs. We had to weather a lot of their pressure, but at the same time, they had to weather our passing ability.”
The first period ended in a scoreless tie, but both teams had opportunities to post a goal with Arkansas posting six shots to Samford’s four. Junior Kathleen Paulsen was active in the midfield setting up her teammates on three separate chances, including a would-be goal that was disallowed by an offsides call.
The Razorbacks posted their first shot on goal in the sixth minute when Kelly O’Connor, set up by Paulsen, cracked a 15-yard shot that was saved by the Bulldogs’ Cayley Winters. Arkansas continued to apply the offensive pressure when Paulsen found Kim Schleif breaking into the box from the left later in the period. Schleif’s shot was aimed for the back post, but Winters made another stop.
At the 26:08 mark, Paulsen and Schleif connected again on an apparent goal, but Schleif was called offsides and the score was erased.
O’Connor was named the tournament’s Offensive MVP as she posted two goals and an assist during the two-day event.Razorback defenders Megan Fawley and Lauren Hallauer were also named to the all-tournament team. Arkansas shutout both opponents.
“I thought today both teams competed very well today,” Henderson said. “That was a fun, college soccer match to watch and if that helps us prepare for the SEC, which it did, we can learn a lot from that match.”
Arkansas returns to the action next weekend with a road trip to Austin Peay and Stephen F. Austin. Visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com for continued coverage of UA soccer.