UA ready for new heights on pitch

By: Paul Boyd
Published: Thursday, August 17, 2017
Arkansas soccer coach Colby Hale speaks Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, to members of his team at Razorback Field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas soccer coach Colby Hale speaks Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, to members of his team at Razorback Field in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas women's soccer coach Colby Hale said his team is ready to take the momentum of last season and run with it.

Others think so, too, since the Razorbacks are ranked No. 17 in the country in the national preseason United Soccer Coaches poll. That's two spots higher than they finished last season.

2017 Arkansas Soccer Roster

Name^Pos.^Ht.^Class

Alexis Bach^GK^5-11^Fr.

Jordan Harris^GK^5-10^Jr.

Elizabeth Poblete^D^6-0^So.

Tori Cannata^F^5-9^So.

Taylor Malham^M^5-10^Fr.

Carly Hoke^D^5-6^Jr.

Katie Kienstra^M^5-7^Sr.

Caroline Campbell^F^5-3^Fr.

Alli Gardner^M^5-11^Fr.

Carson Parker^D^5-8^Fr.

Brooke Pirkle^M^5-11^Fr.

Kayla McKeon^M^5-10^So.

Ansley Bunger^M^5-10^Fr.

Reid Sibley^F/M^5-6^Jr.

Jessi Hartzler^D^5-8^Sr.

Allie Dunn^F^5-6^Fr.

Stefani Doyle^M/F^5-6^So.

Reece Christopherson^M^5-3^Jr.

Haley Vanfossen^D^5-10^Fr.

Ellie Breden^D^5-9^Jr.

Parker Goins^F^5-10^Fr.

Nayeli Perez^M/F^5-6^Fr.

Abbi Neece^M^5-7^Fr.

MaKayle Traxson^F^5-6^Fr.

Hannah Neece^D^5-7^Sr.

Qyara Winston^D^5-8^Jr.

Taylor Beitz^GK^5-9^Fr.

2017 Arkansas soccer schedule

Date^Opponent^Time

Aug. 10^Omaha (Exhi.)^W, 3-0

Aug. 18^at SMU^7 p.m.

Aug. 20^at North Texas^1 p.m.

Aug. 25^vs. Penn State^6:30 p.m.

Aug. 27^vs. Abilene Christian^1 p.m.

Sept. 1^vs. James Madison^7 p.m.

Sept. 3^vs. Mississippi Valley State^1 p.m.

Sept. 7^at Connecticut^6 p.m.

Sept. 10^at Providence^noon

Sept. 15^vs. Mississippi State*^7 p.m.

Sept. 17^vs. Oral Roberts^5 p.m.

Sept. 21^at Vanderbilt*^7 p.m.

Sept. 24^vs. Ole Miss*^4 p.m.

Sept. 29^at Texas A&M*^7 p.m.

Oct. 5^at Auburn*^6 p.m.

Oc.t 8^vs. South Carolina*^5 p.m.

Oct. 13^at LSU*^7 p.m.

Oct. 19^vs. Alabama*^7 p.m.

Oct. 22^at Kentucky*^2 p.m.

Oct. 26^vs. Tennessee*^7 p.m.

Nov. 1-5^at Southeastern Conference Tournament^TBD

  • denotes Southeastern Conference matches

The Razorbacks return 12 players who started at least once from a team that won a school record 18 matches, reached the finals of the Southeastern Conference tournament and won an NCAA tournament match at Razorback Field for the first time. A big key now though is this group is comfortable with those high expectations, Hale said.

"It feels like the suit fits," Hale said. "We know we have to go out and earn it, but it feels a bit more at home now."

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, opens its regular season Friday on the road against Southern Methodist University and debuts at home a week later against Penn State.

Hale, who begins his sixth season at Arkansas, recalled when the Razorbacks advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in just his second year in Fayetteville and didn't know how to respond. The Razorbacks finished 9-7-6 in 2014, then only 6-11-2 in 2015 before bouncing back last season.

"After the Sweet 16, it was so new to us," Hale said. "It felt like 'Well, what do we do with this?' Now we've gone through the bumps and we're comfortable in our own skin. This year we're a good team. We need to work hard and perform, but it feels more natural."

Hale said the group will lean on a strong group of upperclassmen for leadership, but they will mix well with a talented freshman class. Senior defenders Jessi Hartzler and Carly Hoke are a couple who will lead the Razorbacks. While redshirt juniors Reid Sibley and Qyara Winston have struggled with injuries in the past, they should also be key contributors this season.

Sophomores Stefani Doyle and Kayle McKeon, who both were named to the SEC All-Freshman team a year ago, should also form a nice scoring combination for the Razorbacks.

Sibley, who plays up top and in the midfield, suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees and played sparingly until her third season. She played in 23 of 24 matches a year ago, but acknowledged this team is different.

"Since we've had the success, we know it's tangible," Sibley said. "And we want it, but w never stand on that platform. We don't have the same girls, so it's a different team, but since we've done it before we know we can. We want to keep doing more."

Sibley pointed to all the high points of last year, including a home win against second-ranked Duke in front of a record crowd.

"The feeling that we go after Duke was just amazing and that just keeps you going," Sibley said. "That's really exciting."

She admitted it feels different from a year ago for her, too.

"Last year I didn't feel like I was playing at my full potential, but this year does feel different, said Sibley, who scored two goals in Arkansas' exhibition win over Omaha. "It was a bitter sweet moment. I feel like I'm at a place now before I got injured, but then it was kinda sad because I feel like I've missed out on that the last three years. I'm just trying to take advantage of it and do as much as I can."

Sports on 08/17/2017

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