FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the second time in as many games, the Arkansas soccer team (9-5-0, 2-4-0) took a lead only to see its opponent rebound for a win. Abbey Wilburn put the Razorbacks ahead in the 50th minute with her first goal of the season, but Auburn (7-6-2, 3-2-1) responded with a pair of goals from Katy Frierson to clinch the victory Sunday at Razorback Field. The loss is the fourth straight for Arkansas.
“This was another tough one for us,” head coach Gordon Henderson. “The good thing about this year though is that we’re putting ourselves in position to win games. In years past, we’ve just been trying to hang around, but this is now the third SEC game where we’ve had the lead but, unfortunately, haven’t been able to maintain that lead. That’s the development and learning curve we’re on right now. We’re doing a good job of getting these leads but how do you maintain? That’s where we are now.”
Wilburn opened the game’s scoring with a 15-yard shot that found the back of the net past a stretched out Allison Whitworth, the Auburn goalkeeper. Wilburn settled a ball just outside the 18-yard box and with a couple of quick touches to move in closer, she found herself wide open. The senior midfielder unleashed a shot aimed for the back post and gave the Razorbacks the lead at the 49:29 mark.
Arkansas was a congested goal line away from adding a second goal in the 69th minute of the game. Off a corner kick by Rachel Smith, the ball bounced through the box and landed at the feet of Kelly O’Connor set up six yards away from the net. The Razorback sophomore fired a shot but a line of Auburn defenders guarding the net blocked the attempt away.
Arkansas kept Auburn at bay until Frierson put a ball past sophomore goalkeeper Britni Williams at the 79:32 mark. The play was set up by Rebecca Howell who fed a ball into Frierson who was breaking up the middle and into the box. After a touch to collect the ball, Frierson beat a diving Williams for the equalizer.
Less than three minutes later, Auburn took control of the game when Frierson scored again off a pass from Jenni Prescott. Heather Havron was credited with a second assist. Frierson found the back of the net at the 82:19 mark with her sixth goal of the season.
“We’re playing a lot of teams in SEC play that, perhaps, are a bit more athletically balanced all over the field,” Henderson said. “That puts pressure on all of our players out there because they have to work that much harder. We’re almost there and we’re definitely encouraged by some of the things we’ve seen but right now, we just have to find a way to close teams out when we get a lead. We need to show a bit more composure.”
Now trailing by one with less than ten minutes remaining, Arkansas continued to apply offensive pressure. Nikki Crocco checked into the game for defender Sam Bolton to give the Razorbacks an extra attacker. As a result, Arkansas was able to draw two corner kicks in the final three minutes of the game. Off the second corner, Smith knocked a shot toward the goal at the 87:41 mark that sailed high. It was the final shot of the games for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas returns to its home pitch Friday, Oct. 17 to face Kentucky. The game is set for a 7 p.m. start. Visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com for more news about Arkansas soccer.