Let the Season Begin: The Lady Razorbacks finally get to begin their 2007 season on Friday night when they host the Univ. of Tulsa at Lady’Back Field in Fayetteville. The 2007 season’s starting date of August 31, is the latest opener since 2001 when it began on Sept. 2.
Opening at Home: The Lady Razorbacks have not opened their season at home since the 2001 season when it drubbed Texas Tech, 6-1. In the 21-year history of the program, Arkansas has only opened the season at home five times and is 3-2 in those games.
All-Time Season Openers: Since 1986, Arkansas is 9-11-1 in season opening matches which include five home games, 12 road contests and four neutral site matches.
One of the Best: The Lady Razorbacks are coming off one of their best seasons ever and hope to continue the momentum into the 2007 season. Last fall, Arkansas opened the season with a loss before rattling off a school record seven consecutive wins.
Returning Starters: While one can’t predict who is going to start this season, only the coaches know that, we should point out that the Lady Razorbacks return six starters from last season’s successful squad. Arkansas’ returning starters include: Sarah Gwisdala, Allison Harris, Lindsay Patterson, Kim Schleif, Rachel Smith and Abbey Wilburn.
Strong in the Back: Of Arkansas’ returning six, three are defenders which should give the Lady Razorbacks strength in the back line. That group will be key to Arkansas’ success this fall as they start a new goalkeeper.
Between the Posts: Even though their classifications say sophomore and freshman, Arkansas’ goalkeepers are young and inexperienced and might as well be two freshmen. Jackie Booker is the sophomore, but she only saw the field for three minutes last season while Britni Williams is a true freshman. There has been no determination by the Arkansas coaching staff as to who will see the majority of the playing time.
Perfect: Senior Allison Harris may not be the perfect player on the soccer field, but she certainly has those capabilities in the classroom. Harris is your ideal student-athlete. She has started all 59 games of her career over four years and maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average in psychology.
A Soccer First: To the best of anyone at the University’s knowledge, Allison Harris is the first Lady Razorback soccer player to maintain a perfect 4.0 grade point average for eight semesters. That number could become nine after this fall.
Academic Honors: Last fall Allison Harris became just the second Lady Razorback soccer player to be named ESPN The Magazine Academic all-American when she was voted to the third team. A three-time first-team all-district award winner, Harris has also been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times and the UA Academic Champions list eight times.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane are coming off a season where they struggled a bit, ending at 7-11-1 overall and 3-5-1 in Conference USA action. However, the squad returns nine starters from a year ago as well as 18 letterwinners making it an experienced team.
Offensive Struggles: Like the Lady Razorbacks, Tulsa lost its leading scorer from a year ago so will be counting on young players to step up. Sophomore Shannon Locke is the Golden Hurricane’s leading returning scorer with two goals and three assists for seven points.
Leadership in Goal: While Tulsa could have a tough time offensively, the goalkeeper’s position should be all right. Senior Meredith Hart returns for Tulsa and was fantastic between the posts in 2006 with a 1.16 goals against average in more than 1,400 minutes of play. She posted three shutouts and conceded just 19 goals on the season.
Arkansas Versus Tulsa: Over the years Arkansas has struggled with Tulsa, but that trend has reversed itself in the Gordon Henderson era. The Golden Hurricane hold a decisive 17-7-1 record over the Lady Razorbacks, but over the last three years Arkansas is 3-0 and have outscored their border rival by a combined 8-1.
Last Season in Tulsa: The Lady Razorbacks traveled to Tulsa on Sept. 15, 2006, hoping to duplicate their dominating performance from 2005 where they won 5-1. While the outcome in ‘06 was not nearly as lopsided, the Lady Razorbacks were able to continue their winning streak both in season and in the all-time series with Tulsa with a 2-0 victory. Sophie Wentz scored Arkansas’ first goal in the 31st minute followed by Christina Burger late in the game to ice the match.
SEC Preseason Poll: The Southeastern Conference released its 2007 preseason poll on Tuesday morning and the University of Arkansas was slated to finish fourth in the SEC’s Western Division. The Lady Razorbacks are well ahead of Alabama and Mississippi State in the Western Division and close to LSU who ranks third. Auburn leads the West with eight first-place votes and 58 points. In the east, Florida leads the way with nine first-place votes and 57 points. Tennessee ranks second despite a lock of first-place votes with 47 votes. Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky all received one first-place vote.
The Memphis Tigers: Arkansas’ Conference USA opening weekend continues on Sunday afternoon when it plays the Memphis Tigers in Fayetteville. Memphis is coming off a good 11-6-3 season that saw it finish third in the conference with a 6-2-2 mark. Of that successful team, Memphis brings back 16 players including eight starters.
Success Against Memphis: The Lady Razorbacks have been very successful against the Memphis Tigers over the years with a 4-0-0 record. Playing two matches in Fayetteville and two in Memphis, Arkansas has still managed to keep the Tigers caged despite the location of the match. The first meeting between the schools came in 1995 which started a three-year set of games, but following the 1997 season the two teams called it off for nearly a decade before resuming the rivalry in 2006.
The 2006 Match: Arkansas’ game with Memphis last fall was a defining moment in Lady Razorback history. The historical significance was certainly not that Arkansas remained undefeated against the border foe, but that it allowed the Lady’Backs to enter Southeastern Conference play with a school record seven match winning streak. Arkansas’ lone goal in the 1-0 victory came off the foot of Kim Schleif who received a cross from Christina Burger and sent it past the keeper.
SEC All-Freshman Team: Sophomore Kim Schleif made University of Arkansas Lady Razorback history last fall when she became Arkansas’ first SEC all-Freshman team member. Playing the majority of her time at outside midfield, Schleif scored three goals and added an assist in 19 matches, 12 of which she started.
Home Schedule: Arkansas’ home schedule in 2007 is quite favorable and should bring lots of excitement to Lady’Back Field. There are 11 contests on the home slate as opposed to just nine on the road. The action begins on Aug. 31 when the Lady’Backs host Tulsa and concludes on the final day of the regular season, Nov. 2 against LSU. The Lady’Backs play six conference games at home and even have a stretch of six consecutive home matches from Sept. 21 to Oct. 7.
Leading Returning Scorer: Believe it or not, but junior Lindsay Patterson enters the 2007 season as Arkansas’ leading returning scorer. The Texas native scored five times in 2006 and assisted on another goal for 11 points last season. A running mate with three-time leading scorer Christina Burger, Patterson will be called on to pick up some of the scoring slack Arkansas faces without Burger who graduated last spring.
A Fast Start: One thing that the Lady Razorbacks would like to carry over from the 2006 season is their fast start. While they did hit a hurdle in the first game, a 3-2 overtime loss to Missouri State, they embarked on a school best seven match winning streak after that contest.
Freshmen Looking Good: With another week-plus before the first game, it would be impossible to say who might start on Friday, Aug. 31, but we can say without much hesitation that it wouldn’t be a stretch to see some freshmen in the lineup. Several of Arkansas’ 10 incoming players have impressed the coaches in a week’s time and could see their way to the field before too long.