The 2006 Season: While it seems strange enough that the summer has gone by, the 2006 Lady Razorback soccer season is upon us and begins with a scrimmage on Friday evening against Oral Roberts University at Lady’Back Field. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. and gives the new-look Lady’Back soccer team something to look forward to before their first regular season contest on Aug. 25.
New Faces: The Lady Razorbacks lost five seniors to graduation, but in their place have brought in 10 newcomers to fill the void. With a class that is potentially the most diverse in terms of hometowns; the new Lady Razorbacks hail from Virginia to Idaho and make stops in Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Arkansas. These newcomers will be counted on to make an immediate impact this season if the Lady Razorbacks hope to shock their opponents.
Returnees: Arkansas’ coaching staff brought in 10 new faces to compliment what they already had which is a corp group of 13 players that have quite a bit of experience. Led by senior Christina Burger on offense and Carrie Dillsaver in goal, Arkansas features leadership on both ends of the field which could help in tight contests throughout the 2006 season. Other returnees of note include senior Devon Burger, sophomore Abbey Wilburn and junior Allison Harris.
Take Three: Arkansas head coach Gordon Henderson begins his third season with the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback soccer team and following back-to-back recruiting successes hopes to guide his team to the postseason in 2006. Over his first two seasons, Arkansas has been an improved team on the field despite its records and with some luck this fall should make a return trip to the SEC Championship Tournament.
Another Scrimmage: Ever since Gordon Henderson took over the reigns of the Arkansas program he has insisted on his teams playing a preseason match to prepare for their season. In 2004 he took his team to Waco, Texas, to play Baylor University where they struggled in a tough loss to the Big 12 powerhouse. The Bears made a return trip to Fayetteville in 2005 and thanks to a late score by then freshman Megan Fawley, Arkansas walked off the pitch with a hard-fought 1-0 victory. Arkansas’ 2006 season begins with Oral Roberts University and the Lady Razorbacks hope to duplicate their 2005 effort and pick up a confidence boosting win.
Preseason Workouts: The Lady Razorbacks reported to camp on Aug. 8 and went through their normal routine of team meetings, taking photos and issuing equipment. Their first day on the field would be Aug. 9 and on that day participated in a fitness test before making their annual pilgrimage to a team retreat. The Lady’Backs returned to campus on Friday afternoon and played in their first “games” soon after and have looked very good in their movement of the ball and finding the open person.
Two-a-Days: Following their Friday afternoon practice, Arkansas has been knee-deep in two-a-day drills on Lady’Back Field. The first session begins at 9:30 a.m. and the second at 2:30 p.m.
Oral Roberts: Oral Roberts and the University of Arkansas are familiar opponents having played each other nine times since 1988 and eight times over the past 13 years. While this is the first preseason meeting between Arkansas and Oral Roberts, most of the nine previous games have been played in Fayetteville where the Lady Razorbacks have been nearly flawless.
The Series: The Lady Razorbacks enjoy a robust 7-2-0 record all-time against the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in a series that began in 1988. The Lady Razorbacks shut down Oral Roberts in the first three matches of the series with 4-0, 9-0 and 4-0 wins before the Golden Eagles picked up their first win in 1995, a 2-1 upset of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The Lady’Backs would go on to win three more in a row before ORU took the 2004 meeting 1-0 in Tulsa. Arkansas avenged that defeat with a 3-0 victory in 2005.
Last Time They Met: It was a good day for the Lady Razorbacks on Sept. 4, 2005 as they welcomed the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to Lady’Back Field. Megan McCool got the Lady Razorbacks on the scoreboard early with a goal in the sixth minute of the game, then assisted on Arkansas’ second score just after halftime in a 3-0 win.
Christina Burger: The most recognizable name on the Lady Razorback roster has to be Christina Burger. Arkansas’ most dangerous offensive threat, Burger has made her name thanks to her speed and ability to move around the pitch which keeps opposing coaches on the constant lookout for Arkansas’ threat. She enters the 2006 season ranked 10th on the Lady Razorback’s all-time points and sixth on the goals scored charts and could break into the top five with another solid season.
Second-Team All-SEC: Thanks to her outstanding 2005 season in which she was third in the SEC in goals scored, Christina Burger was named second-team all-SEC, her first conference honor and just the 10th in Lady Razorback history.
Top Returning Scorer: When we eluded to the fact that team game plan for Christina Burger we weren’t joking and the proof is in the numbers. Burger is and has been Arkansas’ leading returning scorer since her sophomore year and despite being the focal point of the Lady Razorback attack has still managed to post seasons of five and nine goals over the past two seasons.
Injuries: It has not been a very good preseason for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks in terms of injuries and players sitting on the sidelines. Just a week into 2006 and the Lady’Backs had as many as nine players not participating over the first few days. Injuries of note include Megan Fawley’s right foot, Katie Stauffer’s back and Ali Harter and Sarah Finn’s knees.
Back from Injury: Even though the first couple of days appeared to be a triage ward at Lady Razorback practice, the Arkansas athletic training staff has most of the team back on the field and participating. Carrie Dillsaver was released to participate over the weekend as was Kate Venable. Katie Hamilton who was plagued by a troublesome back all last season is on the field this fall and appears to be able to work through her pain thanks to many hours of rehabilitation and exercises. Allison Harris returned to the field following her 2005 knee injury and appears to not have lost a step despite her year away from the game.
The New Class: To say that Arkansas’ 2006 freshman class is shaking things up would probably be an overstatement, but fans of the Lady Razorbacks shouldn’t be surprised to see at least three or four in the starting lineup against Oral Roberts. Several of Arkansas’ newcomers have impressed the Lady Razorback coaching staff and could find themselves on the pitch early in the ORU contest.
Carrie Dillsaver: Back for a final go, Carrie Dillsaver gets to do what most players dream of in 2006, enjoy a second senior season. In 2005, Dillsaver was considered a senior by her coaches and teammates as she was scheduled to graduate with her nursing degree in May of 2006, despite the fact that she redshirted her true freshman season and was on her third actual season of playing. She indeed received her bachelor’s degree last May, but the call of the soccer pitch was too great for the Claremore, Okla., native and she chose to delay her professional career by six months in order to play her final season of eligibility with the Lady Razorbacks.
Career Numbers: When you look at the numbers, one would have to say the Carrie Dillsaver is among the best to ever play at the University of Arkansas. She won the starting goalkeeper’s job as a redshirt freshman over an experienced senior and ranks in the top three of nearly every career statistical category that Arkansas keeps. With a solid season in 2006, Dillsaver could end up as Arkansas’ all-time leader in every category and solidify herself as the best in Lady Razorback history.
What She Needs: It won’t take Carrie Dillsaver long to start breaking Arkansas’ all-time records in some categories this season. In fact, assuming that she starts the season between the posts and stays healthy, Dillsaver will tie Arkansas’ leader in games started in the seventh game of the season, a road match at Tulsa. Quite a fitting result for the Claremore, Okla., native, Claremore is a suburb of Tulsa. Seven wins this season would make Dillsaver the leader in that category and the 33rd minute of Arkansas’ match against Louisiana Tech would place her in the lead in terms of minutes played.
Two-Time All-American: We don’t usually talk about freshmen players until they accomplish something at the University, but it stands to note that Kat Moffett was a two-time High School all-American while playing for McKinney High School. She was also one of two players during the 2005-06 season to be named both an academic and athletic all-American by the NSCAA and Adidas.
Big Losses: We mentioned that the Lady Razorbacks lost five seniors to graduation, but it was probably not quite clear what those losses would mean. Three of the five were four-year starters, while a fourth would have been had she not been lost to a knee injury her senior season. Katie Taylor was an anchor on Arkansas’ defense, while Megan McCool patrolled the middle of the park.
Filling the Void: The Lady Razorbacks were able to patch some of the holes they knew were coming in 2005 when they recruited the likes of Abbey Wilburn to play center midfield. Wilburn led the Lady Razorbacks in assists last season with six and earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors once. Wilburn’s play is instrumental to Arkansas’ success in 2006.