After a successful run to the Southeastern Conference Championship game and a trip to the NCAA Tournament last season, the Razorback soccer team is keeping its momentum going by winning all five spring games so far.
The Razorbacks have only conceded one goal in five games, outscoring their opponents 12-1.
The Hogs, who finished the year ranked third in the SEC and 16th nationally last season, kicked their spring campaign off with a 7-0 rout of Missouri State over three thirty-minute periods at home April 1. The Hogs only allowed one shot on goal the entire game. Junior defender Jessi Hartzler led the way with two goals.
“We always play to win, so overall it’s gone quite well,” head coach Colby Hale said. “It’s been a long spring, but they’ve put in the work.”
The Hogs made a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the next set of games as they faced Oral Roberts in one 30 minute period and Central Oklahoma in two. The Hogs again held their opponents scoreless, winning every game 1-0. Freshman forward Stefani Doyle recorded her second goal of the spring campaign against Central Oklahoma.
“I think this spring we’ve come out hard and strong and we’re ready to compete for next year,” Doyle said.
Doyle had a stellar 2016 season scoring six goals and was named to the SEC All-Conference Freshman Team and the NSCAA All-South Region Third Team. However, personal accomplishments aside, she is still only focused on team success.
“I want to have the same goals as the team does and build on what we did last year,” Doyle said.
After their three-game weekend, the Hogs returned home to take on the Kansas Jayhawks, who finished last season ranked No. 20 nationally. This game marked the first time the Razorbacks allowed a goal, going down 0-1 in the second half. The Hogs fought back and after an equalizing goal from Hartzler, junior midfielder Katie Kienstra gave the Razorbacks the victory with her goal in the final minutes of the game.
“We’re definitely getting team chemistry up as the spring has gone by,” Kienstra said. “We played a lot as a unit, in that second half especially.”
With the departure of some key seniors, including last season’s leading goalscorer for the Hogs, Lindsey Mayo, Kienstra hopes to step up and be a role model in her senior season for the incoming freshman.
“I’m hoping with fitness tests and lifting in the summer, the freshman see (my attempt to help) and have their standards raised,” Kienstra said. “We set the standards, so when they come in, hopefully they’ll do the same.”
After a successful 2016 campaign, these spring games help the players in more ways than one.
“It’s experience,” Hale said. “We can try some new things, players are given the opportunity to step up and play a bigger role.”
In addition to experience, players can focus on both their strengths and weaknesses to be ready for the fall.
“It helps us figure out what we need to build on, and also what our team is good at and how we can keep excelling,” Doyle said.
Players who did not play as much last season can use these spring games to gain confidence and earn their spot in the starting lineup, Kienstra said.
Looking to next season, it’s clear there are two goals in mind for the Razorbacks: The team is looking to go farther in the postseason and continue their playing style.
“Overall, we just want to be us. We think when we’re us, we're very successful,” Hale said. “Ultimately we talk about winning the SEC, go to the Final Four, competing for a national championship, that’s always the goal.”
Doyle also agrees it’s time to bring home some silverware.
“We’ve really been trying to get our team ready for the fall because our goal is to win the SEC,” Doyle said.
Arkansas will have one final spring game when they travel to Kansas City to take on the Kansas State Wildcats on April 22. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m.