After dropping the first two games of the season to top-10 opponents, No. 8 Arkansas has won nine straight and leads the Southeastern Conference West Division.
“After those first two games, it was pretty disappointing,” senior midfielder Taylor Malham said Monday. “We all just have a mentality to win.”
Arkansas returned a solid core of talented players who have been in the program for some time, but the story of the season has been the combination of contributions from familiar faces and younger players getting opportunities this season.
“Having those younger players and also some transfers has been really nice this year,” Malham said. “Those players getting to come in have impacted the game more than it has in previous years.”
One of the biggest contributors is the team’s leading scorer, junior forward Anna Podojil. She has been timely with her scores as well, knocking in the game-winner in overtime against Texas A&M and adding two goals in a 4-1 win against Ole Miss. Podojil has been a consistent contributor for Arkansas in the last two seasons, but has really turned it up during the win streak, scoring all eight of her goals in the last nine games. Podojil is also first in the SEC in points per game.
Senior goalkeeper Hannah Warner has been a steady presence. Warner has been a stalwart in net, having given up eight goals on the season, and only four in the last nine games. Warner has started every game, and Arkansas as a team has allowed fewer than one goal per match with Warner in net.
Warner does not see a tremendous number of shots, but makes the saves when the opportunity is there. Warner has an .822 save percentage, good for third in the SEC.
“It’s really nice knowing that Hannah’s back there, it’s a huge confidence boost,” said Malham, who won SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Senior forward Parker Goins has undoubtedly been a leader on the squad and a consistent threat to the opposing team. Goins has six goals and a team-leading six assists on the season. Now in her fifth year of solid contribution, her biggest impact has not been scoring herself, but making the extra pass that opens up a scoring opportunity for one of her teammates. Goins is always around the ball making the little plays or the extra passes that contribute to wins.
Haley VanFossen, a senior defender, is another player who returned for her fifth year, and is one of the team leaders in minutes. VanFossen rarely shows up on the box score, but is as reliable a defender as there is.
Senior defender Bryana Hunter leads the team in minutes, and is always in the right position to stop an opponent's run or intercept a pass. Arkansas has outshot its opponents 216-99 on the season, and the tandem of Hunter and VanFossen on the defensive end is a major reason why.
“Having (VanFossen and Hunter) behind me and knowing that they’re there definitely gives me the confidence to go forward, knowing that if I do lose the ball or don’t get back in time, they’re there to back me up,” Malham said.
A player to watch that has shown promise this season and could continue to make an impact is freshman forward Sophia Aragon. She has a healthy number of minutes for a freshman on an experienced team like Arkansas with 438.
Aragon has one goal on the season, but is fourth on the team on shots, with 18, and has significantly fewer minutes than those ahead of her. The opportunities are there, but Aragon just has not been able to convert at a high rate. Once a few bounces start going her way, Arkansas will add yet another lethal scorer to an already potent offense.
The Razorbacks will look to push the winning streak to 10 as they take on Alabama in Fayetteville at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7. The match will be televised on the SEC Network.