After a successful season ending in an NCAA tournament bid, head coach Colby Hale’s Razorback Soccer team looks to keep the momentum in their favor with both new and returning talent.
Against the odds, the Razorbacks last year had a Cinderella season, finishing with an 18-5-1 record. They were picked to be at the bottom of the SEC and projected to not even make it to the NCAA tournament, according to a preseason coaches poll.
“Preseason rankings don’t matter … last year’s didn’t matter and this year’s don’t matter,” Hale said.
Senior midfielder Katie Kienstra, who appeared in a career-high 18 games, said she felt like she had some unfinished business.
“You wanna say give it your all every year, but now you really have just this one last chance,” Kienstra said. “It’s interesting, we started with fifteen freshman and now there’s six of us that are seniors.”
Senior defender Jessi Hartzler, who started in 24 games, said that her focus is to organize the back line defenders and the midfielders. With new freshmen coming in, she said she has to guide them and set the tone.
“I’m really excited. I think that the leadership role that I have, and the seniors have just kind of sets the tone,” Hartzler said.
Hale said that even though they are each different, the seniors really come together to make a complete group of leaders.
Hale said he is ecstatic for the season to start and for senior leadership to take over and show what they are about.
The future also looks bright for the Razorbacks after signing 13 new student-athletes, including two standout players. Parker Goins, a four-star forward from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Caroline Campbell, a three-star forward from Bryant, Arkansas, are joining the team after being named Gatorade All Americans in high school. Campbell won 2016-2017 Girl’s Soccer player of the year with 128 goals and 45 assists in her career. Goins a Jim Thorpe Female player of the year award winner and two time NSCAA All American also adds a deadly threat to the forward squad of the Razorbacks.
Hale said that he can not grade the new arrivals without seeing what they can accomplish as a team. He said that their high school and club achievements don’t mean much at the collegiate level.
“We’ve had kids come in before with no accolades and do well, kids who have had accolades and not do well,” Hale said. “They came in they are talented. That’s great, but at the end of the day, what they do here is what they’re gonna be judged on.”
Hale said preseason rankings do not matter, and that although last year was great, they have to go out on the field and show that they can continue to compete at the highest level.
The seniors said they want to break records and bring something this school has never seen in soccer before — a championship.
Last season was the team’s best year in school history. It was the first time the Razorbacks had beaten a team that was ranked in the top 15 in the country,when they beat No. 2 Duke 2-1 on Aug. 25 and No. 4 Florida 2-1 on Sept. 16.
The Razorbacks will be tested early this year with three preseason matches against top 10 teams ( No. 14 Connecticut on Sept. 7, No. 10 Auburn on Oct. 5, No. 4 South Carolina on Oct. 8,).
The Razorbacks will have their first home game at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 against Penn State ranked No. 26 by the NCAA women’s soccer RPI.