Soccer vs MSU

Ava Tankersley prepares to kick the ball during the Hogs’ victory over Michigan State on Sunday. The Razorbacks emerged triumphant with a 1-0 win.

The Razorback soccer team beat the Michigan State Spartans 1-0 in a back-and-forth tussle with few opportunities, picking up its fourth straight victory Sunday afternoon.

Both teams came into the match with plenty of momentum, each having won three straight matches. Michigan State entered having only allowed one goal on the season in five games, thanks to stellar goalkeeping by All-American and reigning Big Ten keeper of the year Lauren Kozal.

“I think we have the best keeper in the country,” Michigan State head coach Jeff Hosler said after the match. “She was an All-American last year for a reason.”

The Spartan backstop proved difficult to crack in the first half. Despite outshooting Michigan State 10-5 and 4-1 on goal in the first half, serious scoring opportunities were few and far between for both teams throughout the first 45 minutes. The Razorback defense went toe-to-toe with Kozal’s heroics, keeping the game scoreless at halftime.

Senior goalkeeper Grace Barbara remedied the only error in defense for the Hogs in the first half. In the 42nd minute, Jordyn Wickes of the Spartans got past the back line of the Razorbacks. Barbara was left one-on-one from just outside the penalty area, but she immediately thwarted the attack with an aggressive clearance.

Perhaps the closest to a goal was during the halftime festivities when a young fan attempted to score from the penalty spot with a blindfold on, but even his shot sailed well wide to the right.

Razorback head coach Colby Hale credited a formation change for the improvements in the second half.

“We were in a different shape,” Hale said. “Once we moved out of it and moved into a three-front, I thought it helped us.”

The Razorbacks finally had found a way through to the back of the net in the 77th minute.  Senior Bea Franklin scored a header on a set piece, courtesy of an assist from junior Ava Tankersley, who extended her team lead to five helpers on the year.

The Razorbacks were not discouraged by the lack of chances. Franklin credited the team for staying patient.

“That’s just the frustrating part of soccer,” Franklin said. “You play 90 minutes and if we can get one, we’re not satisfied but happy. Also, my mom is here so I wanted to play well in front of her.”

After the game, Hale had high praise for Kozal but was proud of the way his team rose to the challenge, he said.

“She’s tremendous, she’s going to help them win a lot of games,” Hale said. “We call it ‘Set Piece Sunday’ for a reason. Sunday games are decided on grinding through it, and set pieces is how we did that.”

The Hogs are scheduled to begin a three-game road swing beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday against BYU in Provo, Utah. The game will be streamed on BYUTv.


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