After ending senior night on a sour note by losing to No. 19 Tennessee, 3-2, the Razorback soccer team bounced back in the Southeastern Conference tournament, and one goal was enough to get past No. 9 Ole Miss on Oct. 29 and No. 1 seeded South Carolina on Oct. 31, pushing the Hogs to the SEC semifinals for the second year in a row.
Regular Season Recap
The Razorbacks ended their regular season with an overall record of 10-9-1, an SEC record of 4-5-1 and the No. 8 seed for the conference tournament.
The Razorbacks came into the 2017 season being ranked the No. 17 team in the nation in preseason by the United Soccer Coaches Poll but would soon start to drop from the rankings altogether. The Hogs started out the season 4-4 in their first eight games, one of those losses coming from then-No. 1 Penn State in a home game that saw Hog fans break the soccer attendance record for the fourth year in a row. Then, after two consecutive wins against Mississippi State and Oral Roberts, the Hogs would only win four of their last 10 games.
Their struggles against ranked opponents was prominent this season as five of the Hogs’ nine losses would come from every top 25-ranked team they faced. No. 20 Ole Miss, No. 23 Texas A&M, No. 3 South Carolina and No. 19 Tennessee all handed losses to a Razorback team that was coming off of, arguably, its most successful season in 2016.
“I think seasons that you don’t win quite as much always have more lessons to learn,” senior midfielder Katie Kienstra said. “We’ve come together, maybe not as quickly as last year, but I think we’re peaking at the right time ahead of the tournament season.”
Arkansas’ six seniors, while not getting the send-off they were expecting on senior night, were very active this season, with defender Jessi Hartzler receiving All-SEC Second Team honors for the second year in a row. Hartzler led the team playing in 1,709 of a possible 1,745 minutes for Arkansas.Goalkeeper Jordan Harris is on pace to have one of the best goals against averages in conference play in Razorback history as she has racked up a 0.88 goals against average against SEC teams. In 10 conference games this year, Harris has allowed just nine goals, fourth-fewest in the SEC. Kienstra has also been important this season while recording four goals and two assists for a total of 10 points, fourth-best on the team.
“(The seniors) are such a special group,” coach Colby Hale said. “We’re super grateful for all they gave to the program and we talked about leaving a place better than they found it, and I think they certainly did that.”
While recording a down season, record-wise, the goals have still come in bunches for the Razorbacks this season. On Sept. 9, the Hogs defeated Mississippi Valley State, 11-0, tying its largest goal output in program history and was the most goals scored in a game by an SEC team since 2005. Most of the goals this season have come from underclassmen like former four-star recruit and freshman forward Parker Goins, who leads the team with eight goals and earned All-SEC Second Team and SEC All-Freshman Team honors at the end of the regular season. Assist-wise, Arkansas has been moving the ball a lot with freshmen Goins and midfielder Nayeli Perez, as well as sophomore forward Stefani Doyle, having six assists each. As a team, Arkansas ranks third in the SEC in goals scored and assists made and is in the top 20 in both categories nationally.
“You can always count on Stefani and Parker,” Hartzler said. “They’ve been really good at playmaking and scoring along with our other young players and I’m really excited for their future in the next few years.”
In a weekend where the Razorback football and volleyball teams took home victories against Ole Miss, the soccer team continued this pattern, beating the Rebels, 1-0, with a goal from freshman defender Taylor Malham in the 32nd minute of the match. Malham scored her sixth goal of the year, good for second-most on the team. Harris held her own against 14 Rebel shots in the last 20 minutes of the game and recorded a season-high five saves while earning her sixth shutout of the year.
In the quarterfinals Oct. 31, sophomore forward Tori Cannata scored her first goal of the season, and second of her career, in the 53rd minute to help the Hogs knock off SEC regular-season champion No. 3 South Carolina and advance to the semifinals. The Razorbacks will play the semifinal game at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Orange Beach, Alabama, against the winner of the Tennessee and Vanderbilt game.