Soccer vs Duke

Arkansas defender Haley VanFossen fights off an attacker during Thursday's match against Duke. The No. 6 Blue Devils downed the No. 13 Razorbacks 3-1 to open the 2021 season.

The Razorback soccer team fell short against the sixth-ranked Duke Blue Devils 3-1 on Thursday night despite a promising showing. It was the first match of two in the Nike Classic hosted by North Carolina.

The Hogs opened the scoring with a cross from the right wing that resulted in a deflection, and the ball found its way to the feet of senior forward Parker Goins before she smashed it home to give the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

Arkansas began the match with its tried and true press-style defense that caused Duke and its possession-based style of play plenty of problems all night. The Hogs created multiple turnovers, which led to their 1-0 lead through the 21st minute.

Eventually, the Blue Devils showed why they are ranked No. 6 in the country and began to match Arkansas’ play style. In the 39th minute, Duke freshman forward Michelle Cooper blazed a shot from outside the box that went between the legs of junior defender Reagan Swindall, leaving senior goalkeeper Hannah Warner limited time to see the shot. The ball rolled under Warner’s body as she dove to her right, resulting in a 1-1 tie going into the half.

The top-15 matchup showcased the physicality a soccer match can feature, as the Hogs accumulated five yellow cards, four in the first half alone. Duke acquired one yellow card during the game.

The Blue Devils started the second half with a new intensity as they began to dominate possession and send an onslaught of runs into the box. These runs led to Duke senior midfielder Mackenzie Pluck drawing two penalties in the 49th and 51st minutes. Pluck and graduate forward Tess Boade converted their penalties, making it 3-1 in Duke’s favor.

The brightest star of the match for the Razorbacks was Warner. It is not often that the standout player is a goalkeeper who conceded three goals, but in this case, two of those were penalties, and Warner was the main contributor to keeping the Razorbacks’ hopes alive for the full 90 minutes.

Warner ended the game with seven saves in total, including a diving save in the 70th minute to her left to stop a curling shot heading toward the top-right corner of the goal from outside the box.

Despite the two-goal deficit, the Hogs began a surge in the last 15 minutes, resulting in their first corner of the game in the 80th minute. This led to an energetic press that resulted in a few chances created but no goals. Arkansas finished the match with three shots compared to Duke’s 19 in a tough opening to the season.

It was only the second season opener Arkansas head coach Colby Hale has lost in his 10 years with the Razorbacks. Despite the loss, Hale said he sees the game as a learning experience.

“Credit to Duke,” Hale said in a press conference. “In the first, we had a chance to go 2-0. We didn’t. “The second half was them. We put together a tough schedule to test ourselves, and we will get better from this one.”

The Razorbacks will visit the third-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday, August 22. The game will be available to view at 12 p.m. on the ACC Network Extra, a stream accessible through the ESPN app with the credentials of most cable/TV providers.

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