Another Early Start: The University of Arkansas Lady Razorback soccer team is off to an early start for the second year in a row as they prepare to take on Baylor University in an exhibition match on Aug. 20. The preseason match should be a good measuring stick for head coach Gordon Henderson as he evaluates his team for opening day on Aug. 26.
Reporting Day: Arkansas’ coaching staff was chomping at the bit to get started on reporting day which was Tuesday, Aug. 9. The Lady Razorback’s first practice took place on Wednesday, Aug. 10 and it has been two-a-days since.
Expectations: If the nation or the league aren’t expecting much from Arkansas this fall, you couldn’t tell by the work that has gone into two-a-day practices. The Lady Razorbacks are expecting much more in 2005 than they have in years past and hope to fulfill their goals as the season progresses.
A Strong Class: The Lady Razorbacks got off to a good start in 2005 when their recruiting class was ranked for the first time by SoccerBuzz, an online women’s soccer magazine. Coming in at 14th in the central region and 54th overall, Arkansas’ coaches are excited to see what their newcomers will add to the field of play this fall.
The First Test: The Lady Razorbacks take on Baylor University in their first test of the 2005 season. Last season Baylor was quick and strong giving Arkansas all sorts of match up problems, but a year has gone by since that game and the Lady Razorbacks now know what to expect from the Bears.
A Veteran Team: Arkansas’ preseason opponent is going to be ready for competition this fall. Baylor lost five seniors but return its top two leading scorers who tallied 19 and 17, points respectively. Tiffany Boshers scored nine goals as a junior in 2004 while Anna Schuch tallied seven in her sophomore season. The Lady Razorbacks will certainly have to watch both players if they wish to pick up a preseason win.
Last Season: Arkansas traveled to Baylor last fall for a mid-week clash in Waco for an exhibition match in 2004. Coming out on the losing end, 3-0, the Lady Razorbacks were beaten by a better team in that contest, but one must also understand that it was Arkansas’ first game with head coach Gordon Henderson and his new system.
No Rest for the Weary: Arkansas’ two-a-day practices are scheduled to run through Thursday, Aug. 18. Aug. 19 is a one-session day before kick off Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Despite the rush of a first game, even though it is an exhibition match, Arkansas is schedule to complete another two-a-day session on Sunday, Aug. 21 before classes begin on Monday, Aug. 22.
Looking Good: Even though Arkansas has been working very hard throughout the past week, it still has the spring that comes with the opening of the season. Many of the Lady Razorbacks stayed in Fayetteville over the summer to train for the fall season and the hard work shows as the team not only looks fit, but also has learned a few moves that should help them in tight spaces this fall.
Offensive Production: The question that has been on the minds of everyone associated with Arkansas soccer is where the offense is going to come from. Junior Christina Burger has been Arkansas’ leading scorer for each of the past two seasons, while sophomore Sarah Gwisdala led the team in goals in 2004. Those two weapons will be key to Arkansas’ success, but they will need help if the Lady’Backs plan to go far this fall.
The Top Threat: It doesn’t matter if she is playing forward, outside midfield or center midfield, Christina Burger gets the job done and can flat out score. With 11 goals and five assists over her first two seasons, Burger is a player that can cause opposing defenses to have fits as she moves around the field to best utilize her unique abilities. It also doesn’t hurt that she is also one of the fastest players on the Lady Razorback roster.
The 2004 Lady Razorbacks: The Lady Razorbacks enjoyed a decent first season under head coach Gordon Henderson. Going 6-11-2, the Lady’Backs were solid during the non-conference portion of the schedule, then tailed off at the end of the season. The 2004 squad was laden with younger talent as only one senior was on the field.
Decent Numbers: While the record wasn’t everything that the Arkansas faithful was hoping for, the Lady Razorbacks did produce some fantastic numbers during the 2004 season. Arkansas’ 1.44 goals against average was the fifth best in Lady Razorback history and the best since the 1996 team’s 1.36. Two Lady Razorbacks scored in double digits with Christina Burger and Sarah Gwisdala each tallying 12 points. Arkansas’ 4-4-0 non-conference record was its best since 1996.
A Strong Freshman Year: Sarah Gwisdala was one of the bright spots for the Lady Razorbacks in 2004 as she scored six goals and 12 points in her first year. Her numbers rank her fourth on Arkansas’ all-time list for goals as a freshman and for her efforts she became just the third Lady Razorback in school history to be named SEC Player of the Week. Gwisdala will be counted on to be a goal producer throughout the 2005 season either as a forward or outside midfielder.
Three School Records: During the 2004 campaign, Arkansas tied or broke three school records and got off to their best start in Southeastern Conference history. Then sophomore Katie Hamilton tied the Arkansas mark for assists in a game with three against Southern University. As a team the Southern game was most fruitful as they set marks for goals in a game (11) and margin of victory (11). As for Arkansas’ SEC start, the Lady’Backs were undefeated through the first three matches at 2-0-1.
Roaming the Outside: Katie Hamilton had a breakthrough year in 2004 as she emerged as an offensive threat to go along with her defensive prowess. Hamilton was Arkansas’ fourth leading scorer and assist leader with two scores and four helpers over 19 games for eight points. Starting every contest, Hamilton played more minutes last season than all but five Lady Razorbacks and each of those players were defenders or a goalkeeper. Not bad company considering she is an outside midfielder.
Seniors: The Lady Razorbacks had one in 2004, but the 2005 senior class is the largest in several years. Six Lady Razorbacks will play their final seasons for Arkansas with three coming from Arkansas’ back line. The Lady Razorback senior class includes captain Andrea Sparks, Carrie Dillsaver, Katie Taylor, Megan McCool, Morgan McCord and Holly Rosen.
A Rock in Goal: The Lady Razorbacks have been blessed throughout the years with solid goalkeeping and that trend continues with senior Carrie Dillsaver. A two-year starter, Dillsaver has been integral to Arkansas’ success and her ability to come up with the big save is known throughout the league. Over the past two seasons, Dillsaver has started all 36 games she has played in and tallied a staggering 1.66 goals against average.
Moving Up the Charts: Unless the Lady Razorbacks have a year that will be remembered by the nation, Carrie Dillsaver may not eclipse all the Lady Razorback goalkeeping records, but her three-year assault on them will take her awfully close. Dillsaver is currently ranked between two and six on all the Lady Razorback career charts and has a chance to break most of the records with another year like she has displayed.
Setting Records: While Carrie Dillsaver continues to move up the Arkansas career charts, she is also locked into a few Lady Razorback records. She has six Arkansas class records including minutes played as a freshman and sophomore, goals against average, and shutouts and starts as a sophomore.
The Backbone: The Lady Razorbacks have assembled a strong defensive unit that has played together for two seasons and during that time has accumulated more than 144 starts between the four players. Seniors Andrea Sparks and Katie Taylor are assisted by juniors Allison Harris and Devon Burger to anchor the back for Arkansas and adding in senior Carrie Dillsaver in goal and you have five starters that have seen almost everything opposing offenses can throw at them.
Proof of a Solid Defense: The proof of Arkansas’ defensive prowess is its ability to keep balls out of the net. In 2003 the Lady Razorbacks allowed 42 goals. The 2004 squad allowed a mere 28 for a 33% improvement. Could the 2005 team be even better? Only time will tell.