FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ soccer team closes its home schedule this week with a pair of games at Razorback Field, and both are good tests for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas entertains No. 9 Texas A&M on Friday at 7 p.m. and Auburn on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Texas A&M, which is in its first year as a member of the Southeastern Conference, leads the league at 12-2-1 overall and 6-1-1 in conference play. Auburn is second to A&M in the Western Division at 8-7-0 overall and 4-4-0 in the league.
A&M is the fifth ranked opponent for the Razorbacks this year, and all have been in the last 10 games. Arkansas has faced No. 1 Florida State, No. 22 Ole Miss, No. 18 Kentucky and No. 24 Florida, and beat Kentucky, 3-2, for its first win ever over a ranked team.
The Razorbacks are coming off a 1-1-0 week, falling to Vanderbilt, 3-2, in double-overtime and beating Alabama, 3-1, on Sunday. Arkansas rallied twice to force overtime against the Commodores and Sunday’s win was the first for Arkansas over the Crimson Tide since 2006. Over the last three weeks, the Razorbacks are 3-2-1 with 10 goals scored. Arkansas is 6-7-1 overall and third in the SEC’s Western Division at 3-4-1.
"We try to break it down to what we did well and what we can take confidence from, and what do we need to improve on," head coach Colby Hale says. "Against Vanderbilt, we felt we played well enough to get a result. Against Alabama, I was really proud that we were able to rebound so quickly. I thought their resilience was fantastic. They let it go, got prepared and scored three great goals. That shows real maturity."
A&M beat Alabama last Friday and lost to Florida on Sunday. The Aggies were 16-6-2 overall last year and 6-1-1 in the Big 12.
The Aggies are first in the SEC in goals allowed with just seven and in shutouts with 10. A&M is also second in goals against average (0.46), goals (33), assists (28) and points (94).
"They are good, athletic, well-coached, they defend well, they don’t give up many goals and they create a ton of chances," Hale says. "They pose some challenges so we have to figure out some ways to deal with those and then find some weaknesses and try and attack those. We’re excited about the game and expect a good crowd. The team really loves a good challenge and seems to rise to the occasion."
Arkansas leads the all-time series 4-3-1, but the teams have not met since 1995.
Arkansas continues to feature a balanced attack with goals from eight different players. Allie Chandler, Lindsey Mayo and Jeriann Okoro have scored three goals, Ashleigh Ellenwood two, and Andrea Carlson, Phyllis George, Haley Hatcher and Yvonne DesJarlais one each. Twelve Razorbacks have also combined for 14 assists.
Seniors Carlson and Chandler will be playing their final home games for the Razorbacks this weekend.
"Both of those kids are great," Hale says. "Andrea transferred here (from Oklahoma State) and she didn’t play a lot last year, but she’s played good minutes this year. She scored a big goal Sunday against Alabama. She works hard, does what we ask and she’s really a great kid. Allie is a special player. She has a unique set of skills. She brings something to the game that can change it. Her work rate is trememdous.
"We, as a staff, have a special place in our hearts for them because they are our first senior class," he says. "I’m really enjoying the successes we’re having this year for them. The hard work they are putting in is paying off and they are seeing the fruits of their labor."