It has already been a memorable year for Razorback Soccer. The team captured its first-ever regular season Southeastern Conference championship, winning eight matches in conference play and securing 25 of 30 possible points. After wrapping up the regular season with a 3-1 victory over Tennessee, Arkansas marched into Orange Beach, Alabama, looking to double-down and win the SEC Tournament.
The top-seeded Razorbacks ousted Ole Miss in the quarterfinals with the help of senior goalkeeper Katie Lund’s six-save shutout and junior midfielder Taylor Malham’s successful attempt from the penalty spot in the first half.
Next, the Hogs battled with Florida in the semifinals. Senior midfielder Stefani Doyle tallied a score at the tail-end of the first half to put Arkansas in front, and freshman forward Anna Podojil scored on both sides of the lone Gator goal in the second half. The 3-1 win sent the Razorbacks to their fourth consecutive SEC Tournament final.
Arkansas met South Carolina, the only SEC team to defeat the Hogs this season, in the final. The Gamecocks, undefeated in conference play, struck midway through the first half, and that goal would end up being the only goal. The Razorbacks suffered their second shutout to South Carolina this season and their fourth-straight loss in the SEC title game.
“I thought we did well in the SEC Tournament. It’s hard to play three games in seven days,” senior forward Tori Cannatta said. “We had our mind set on winning the whole thing, but we’re looking forward to the NCAA Tournament.”
Arkansas head coach Colby Hale echoed Cannatta’s thoughts regarding the SEC Tournament, adding that the team is “not really built for” the quick turnarounds between games.
Monday afternoon, the NCAA released the 64-team tournament bracket. The selection committee determined Arkansas to be one of the four No. 3 seeds, meaning the Razorbacks will host the first round match and are second in line for home-field advantage in the next two rounds.
‘We’ve never been seeded (1-4) before,” Hale said. “On one end, we want to be a one seed and we want to win all the games, but at the end of the day, we’ve accomplished a lot and we’re not done.”
Arkansas’ first round matchup is against the North Texas Mean Green, winners of the Conference USA Tournament. The Mean Green finished conference play with seven wins and a draw, good for 22 points and second in the C-USA. They knocked off top-seeded Florida Atlantic by a score of 5-2 to claim the conference title and tournament bid.
“Any team that we would have gotten would have been difficult to play against,” senior midfielder Stefani Doyle said. “We’re going to have to come out hard and be Arkansas.”
The Razorbacks and the Mean Green have met four times in the past, each having won twice. Arkansas, however, has won the more recent meetings. In 2016, the Hogs downed North Texas in Fayetteville 1-0, and in 2017 they went to Denton, Texas, to secure a 2-0 victory.
The winner will go on to face the winner of the Navy-North Carolina State match in the second round. If the regional No. 2 seed Brigham Young wins its first round match, the next two rounds will be played on its campus in Provo, Utah. The Razorbacks would not meet the undefeated Cougars until the third round, however. If BYU loses and Arkansas wins, the next two rounds will be played in Fayetteville.
Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15 at Razorback Field. The first 500 students will be admitted free, and those unable to attend can stream the game on SEC Network +.