A remarkable season for the Arkansas Razorbacks soccer team came to a grinding halt Thursday afternoon in Provo, Utah. Just six days after North Texas head coach John Hedlund called Arkansas a team that could go to the Final Four, the Razorbacks ran into a stingy North Carolina State squad that slowly crushed their hopes of bringing a national title to Fayetteville.
Since early October, the Hogs were one of the strongest teams in the nation, as indicated by the plus-26 goal differential they boasted. Their 61 goals this season were good for fourth in the nation and were instrumental in capturing the program’s first ever regular-season SEC title.
But when they ran into the Wolfpack, the Razorbacks looked like a different team.
Despite having more possession time, shots and shots on target than NC State, Arkansas could not find a way to get on the scoreboard.
The Wolfpack did not waste the opportunity to go ahead of the national three-seed, striking in the 18th minute on its second corner kick of the afternoon. A blocked shot made its way to senior forward Kia Rankin, and she fired from the top of the box, through traffic and past Razorback senior goalkeeper Katie Lund.
The Hogs created five corner kicks after that, all unsuccessful.
North Carolina State entered the second half with tremendous confidence, and it would not take long to double the difference. Three minutes into the half, a low corner kick went through traffic and found sophomore defender Lulu Guttenburg all alone at the top of the box. She had plenty of time and made no mistake, masterfully placing it in the top left-hand corner of the net.
After the second Wolfpack goal, Arkansas struggled to possess the ball. Razorback urgency and Wolfpack confidence proved to be a hopeless mix for the Hogs until the final 10 minutes.
Failed passes plagued Arkansas as NC State continued to make Lund work. It was not until the 88th minute that the Razorbacks broke through on the scoreboard, when their seventh corner of the afternoon landed at the feet of senior forward Tori Cannata inside the six-yard box and she scored to cut the deficit in half.
The Hogs hurried to get the ball back to midfield for the kickoff knowing there was enough time for an equalizer. After a quick Wolfpack attack, Arkansas took the ball right down the field with under a minute to knot things up.
As the public address announcer began the countdown from 10 seconds, a throw-in came from the right side. Suddenly freshman sensation Anna Podojil had it. She turned around and rifled a shot. The crowd fell silent as they watched it sail through the air. It missed the crossbar by inches as time expired.
It was just the fourth loss Arkansas suffered all year, and the third that came away from Razorback Field.
A totally dominant team defeated in an uncharacteristic fashion created an anticlimactic finish to perhaps the best season in program history.