Darting past the opposition, she had the chance to score and put her team in the lead. Though she had many opportunities to put herself on the board, she passed the ball toward one of her squad members, making the second goal in the game and landing them in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Anna Podojil, a freshman, has had a record season with the Women’s Razorback soccer team, which led to a dominant performance in the SEC tournament, where the team made the finals. The Hogs also played in the NCAA tournament, earning the right to play the first round in Fayetteville.
“It was always a dream of mine to play college soccer here,” Podojil said. “I kind of always had visions of playing here, but now, just everything is coming into place.”
Haley VanFossen, a junior defender, thinks this winning season could not have been possible without freshmen like Podojil who stepped up and helped throughout the season, she said.
“I mean, having a freshman just come out and be a spark for us like that is amazing, and I am so excited to see what she does in the next couple of years, because she is just off the charts,” VanFossen said.
Podojil found her passion for soccer as an 8-year-old recreational player in Bentonville, Arkansas, and has not stopped playing since, she said. When she started out, Podojil did not have any local players to look up to, and the Razorback soccer program was in its infancy, so she looked up to national players.
Podojil grew up watching the U.S. Women’s National Team and discovered popular players like Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, past and current U.S. forwards.
“I just like (Wambach’s) passion for the game and how hard she played,” Podojil said. “Just seeing her play at the highest level in the Olympics and the World Cup – I’d always dreamed of being there and following in her footsteps.”
Podojil moved with her family to Cincinnati, Ohio, before she started high school. There, she discovered club sports.
“The biggest change came when I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and just like the jump of the level of soccer was really big,” Podojil said. “I started playing on a better club team, and we started traveling more and playing in bigger tournaments.”
Podojil joined the club Cincinnati United Premier, winning a national championship her junior year, she said.
Following her successful high school and club career, Podojil came to the UofA as a forward.
She was excited to join an Arkansas team, having looked up to Razorback athletes since childhood and attending many UA sporting events with her sister, she said.
Podojil found success during her freshman year with the soccer team, with one of her most prolific matches being against UNC, where she scored the opening goal against the Tarheels.
The Razorbacks were the only team to beat UNC during the fall 2019 season, according to UNC Athletics.
Podojil deemed this victory her favorite moment of the season.
“As a team, that was the game that we came together, and it felt so special afterwards, Podojil said.”
Katie Lund, a senior goalkeeper, thinks Podojil’s success comes from her humility and desire to be a team player, she said.
“Anna this year was incredible,” Lund said. “She really is a star and she would never take the credit for herself.”
Lund admires Podojil’s ability to stay focused and serious on the field while still having a sense of humor, she said.
Going into the remainder of her collegiate soccer career, Podojil hopes to accomplish even more than she did this year, and help the team continue to push and go further, she said.
“This year, we did accomplish a lot, but one of my biggest goals is to keep winning SEC championships and find a way to eventually win the SEC tournament title and keep making long runs in the NCAA tournament,” Podojil said.
When Podojil graduates, she hopes to pursue club sports, preferably on the West Coast, and possibly even the national team, she said.
“I think in these past few years, professional for women has kind of exploded, and there are so many more opportunities,” Podojil said. “I think that if I continue to develop and get better, then I can have a shot at playing professionally one day.”