ARK-ND soccer 11/21/21

Arkansas junior forward Anna Podojil attempts to kick the ball by a Notre Dame defender during the Razorbacks’ 3-2 Sweet 16 victory over the Fighting Irish on Sunday.

The second-seeded Arkansas soccer team took it to the wire but triumphed 3-2 over Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Tournament on Sunday evening at Razorback Field.

The Razorbacks scored early for the third time in a row Sunday. The Hog offense has pushed opposing defenses to their breaking points early and often all season, and it did just that in the first 20 minutes of the matchup with Notre Dame.

A deep throw-in from senior forward Parker Goins in the ninth minute sailed in front of the Fighting Irish goal and bounced off a player then off the foot of senior midfielder Taylor Malham into the back of the net, putting Arkansas up one score early.

“We had been talking a lot about set pieces,” Malham said in the postgame press conference. “Parker has a really long throw and we wanted to capitalize on that early, and we had a chance to.”

Arkansas rode the momentum from the score and kept the pressure on the Fighting Irish. Goins had a golden scoring opportunity on a breakaway that was turned away by Notre Dame goalkeeper Ashley Naylor in the 18th minute. The full-tilt pressure came back to bite the Razorbacks, as Notre Dame knotted the score at 1-1 in the 21st minute on a counter-attack off a Razorback turnover.

The Irish goal flipped changed the momentum slightly, and neither side could get much room for the rest of the half. The two squads went into the locker room deadlocked at halftime, with the Razorbacks outshooting the Irish 12-5.

It only took until the 53rd minute for the Razorbacks to retake the lead. Freshman forward Sophia Aragon sent the ball across the Notre Dame goal’s 6-yard box, and Goins managed to get her head on the ball, sending it into the net and creating a 2-1 Arkansas lead.

The Fighting Irish did not go away, and Notre Dame forward Olivia Wingate managed to weave through the Arkansas backline on a breakaway. The senior forward found some separation and knocked it past Arkansas senior goalkeeper Hannah Warner to tie the game 2-2 in the 62nd minute.

The rest of the game was tense as the back-and-forth action continued. Notre Dame had multiple chances to take the lead, including a shot from point-blank range that beat Warner but went just wide of the net.

Malham scored the eventual game-winner in the 77th minute. The All-SEC first-teamer dribbled down the field and let it rip just outside the top right corner of the penalty box. She sent a missile off her right foot to the top left corner of the net to take a 3-2 lead that the Razorbacks managed to retain until the end of the match.

“I just saw the goal open,” Malham said. “Luckily it went in.”

Arkansas outshot the Fighting Irish 23-9. The Irish managed to put three shots on target to the Razorbacks’ 12.

“It wasn’t our best game,” Arkansas head coach Colby Hale said. “We grinded through that. We won 3-2 in a game that wasn’t our A-game. The postseason is about one thing: survive and advance.”

The Razorbacks will take on top-seeded Rutgers at 7 p.m. Friday in Piscataway, New Jersey, in Arkansas’ first Elite Eight appearance. Arkansas will have an opportunity to advance to the College Cup for the first time in team history.

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