FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ soccer team opens Southeastern Conference play this week with a pair of road games at Ole Miss on Friday and at Georgia on Sunday.
The Ole Miss game is at 7 p.m. while the contest at Georgia is at noon (central).
The Razorbacks enter league play 3-3-0 following Sunday’s home loss to No. 1 Florida State.
Head coach Colby Hale likes some of the things his team did, but also knows some areas need to be improved upon.
"There are two sides to the coin," he says. "We worked hard. The game plan we had worked and the girls executed it, and we’re improving. They are fighting and competing. The other side is we are tasked with winning games and we didn’t do that. There are little things that need to be fixed and little things in soccer are the difference in winning and losing."
Ole Miss enters SEC play tied with Mississippi State for the best record in the conference at 7-0-0. The Rebels are 5-0-0 at home and are ranked No. 22 in the Soccer America poll. It’s the second straight game for Arkansas against a ranked opponent.
"Ole Miss has scored a lot of goals," Hale says. "They lead the conference. They are very, very good."
Ole Miss leads the SEC in scoring with 26 goals, goals per game with 3.71, assists per game with 3.43 and points per game with 10.86. Facing Florida State on Sunday may have helped prepare the Razorbacks.
"Our individual and group defending was very good," Hale says of the FSU game. "(FSU) has some really dangerous attacking players. Not only did we give up just one goal, but I didn’t think we gave up a lot of good chances. (Keeper) Kelly (Roliard) made the saves she needed to make. Our defending has been good, the back line is doing well and our midfield is starting to understand its role. From an attacking standpoint, we’re creating very good chances, getting behind them, making good decisions with the ball and our runs off the ball are good. All of those things are getting better."
In addition to No. 1 Florida State and No. 22 Ole Miss, Arkansas also has games with No. 10 Texas A&M, No. 21 Missouri, No. 22 Florida and No. 25 Tennessee. Kentucky is also receiving votes. Hale is not surprised to see five SEC teams in the rankings.
"The SEC is good," he says. "Every team is at .500 or better and has some huge wins. Anybody can beat anybody and we’re going in with that mentality."
Hale hopes the non-conference schedule has the Razorbacks ready.
"We saw a wide difference in style and ability," he says. "We saw almost everything. Some teams were physical and direct, and some were possession teams. Hopefully the girls feel prepared and confident."
Georgia, which plays host to Vanderbilt on Friday, is 4-3-0, including 2-1-0 at home. The Bulldogs lead the SEC with 38 saves and 5.43 saves per game.
Arkansas is sixth in the league with 21 saves and 3.50 saves per game. Roliard is seventh with 3.17 saves per game and tied for seventh with two shutouts.
Ole Miss leads the series 12-4-1, including 5-2-1 in Oxford. Georgia leads 9-2-3, including 3-1-2 in Athens.
In 2010, the last time for Arkansas to travel to either site, the Razorbacks recorded a 4-4 double-overtime tie against Ole Miss and a 0-0 double-overtime tie against No. 17 Georgia.
The Razorbacks are 7-10-1 all-time in SEC openers.