The first round of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament began Friday as the boisterous blaring of vuvuzelas set the tone for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the North Texas Mean Green on a chilly night in Fayetteville.
“The team was a little, I’ll say, not happy about getting a three seed. We felt like we deserved more,” Arkansas head coach Colby Hale said. “They had something to prove tonight.”
The Hogs busted out of the gates, firing shots at a relentless pace for the entirety of the first half but without creating any entries on the score sheet. Arkansas led North Texas 16-1 in the shot department after 45 minutes, forcing North Texas sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Brann to make five saves. Meanwhile at the other end, Arkansas senior goalkeeper Katie Lund had to deal with minimal Mean Green possessions and made all of one save.
With intense pressure coming from the home team, it was only a matter of time before the dam would break. 10 minutes into the second half, the Razorbacks converted on another set piece. Senior defender Marissa Kinsey lobbed the ball from the right corner to senior forward Tori Cannata who sent a header past Brann to give the Hogs the lead.
“Everyone came in focused and prepared for this game,” freshman forward Anna Podojil said. “Once we got that first goal, we knew that we would get on a roll.”
With a one-goal advantage and an opponent that was quickly fading, Arkansas continued to apply pressure. The Mean Green failed to register a shot in the final 45 minutes of the match while the Razorbacks bullied the visitors in their own end. The Hogs struck again with seven minutes left to play when Podojil blasted a ball from way beyond the 18-yard box to create a rebound for junior forward Parker Goins to bury and double the lead.
Just over two minutes later, Kinsey took aim from distance, forcing Brann to make an incredible save. The ball deflected off her hand, off the post and onto the goal line for a waiting sophomore
midfielder Kaelee Van Gundy to secure a 3-0 victory for the Razorbacks.
“I thought it was a really complete, we don’t use the word, but dominating performance,” Hale said.
Lund echoed Hale’s assessment of the squad’s performance, adding that they have “some good momentum,” and are excited for the next round.
The next match is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21, at 4 p.m., when Arkansas will take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack, 3-0 winners of their first round tangle with Navy. It will take place in Provo, Utah, on the Brigham Young University campus. BYU is the regional No. 2 seed and a potential third-round opponent for the Razorbacks.
The game can be streamed on SEC Network+.