Freshman class shines for soccer Razorbacks

By: Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, October 12, 2017
Arkansas freshman Parker Goins scored four goals during the Razorbacks' win over Abilene Christian on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas freshman Parker Goins scored four goals during the Razorbacks' win over Abilene Christian on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— Stefani Doyle’s eyes got big when she heard the stat: Freshmen accounted for 18 of Arkansas’ goals this soccer season.

Doyle, a sophomore midfielder with four goals through the first 16 games, knew the Razorbacks’ newcomers had made an impact, but wasn’t aware just impactful they had been on the scoreboard. The 19 goals account for more than half of the team's 35 goals this year.

“That is amazing,” Doyle said. “They’re a really special class that has helped us a lot.”

This freshman class was arguably Colby Hale’s most heralded. The 14-member class includes 12 players who already have played this year and another who came into the program with an injury that has kept her off the field.

The class was headlined by two players — forward Parker Goins and midfielder Taylor Malham — who have quickly lived up to their billing as top high school recruits.

Goins and Malham were high school teammates at Tulsa Union High School, which won state championships in Oklahoma’s largest classification in their junior and senior seasons. Goins was one of just three high school athletes selected to participate in the U.S. team camp prior to the 2018 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and Malham was invited to the U.S. U-17 tryouts her junior year.

More than midway through their first collegiate season, Goins and Malham are the leading goal scorers for Arkansas; Goins with eight goals and four assists despite time missed with an ankle injury, and Malham with four goals.

Goins scored the only goal in the Razorbacks' 1-0 win over LSU on Thursday - the second time this season she has had the only goal in an SEC win. Arkansas improved to 8-7-1 overall and 3-3-1 in SEC games.

“With a highly-rated class, I think every coach would tell you it’s wait and see,” said Colby Hale, Arkansas’ sixth-year coach. “You’re excited because you recruited them and clearly you saw something in them that you liked, but it’s a big adjustment going from high school and club to college. Some make it very quickly and for some it takes a little time. But overall, I think we’ve done quite well.”

Goins and Malham also were teammates on the TSC Hurricane club team in soccer, a team that included other Arkansas freshmen — midfielder/forward Nayeli Perez and defender Haley VanFossen, also a Tulsa Union teammate. The quartet has combined for 14 goals and 11 assists this season.

It’s similar to last season when a similarly large group from the club team Dallas Sting helped form a record-setting team at Arkansas that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve grown up together,” said Doyle, a member of the Sting who was voted to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team last season. “You figure out what they want and it just becomes habit. It’s like a mental connection that you get from your friend, just from growing up with them.

“I think we kind of had an idea of what these freshmen would be like. We knew we had a good class coming in and they were going to help us and make us better.”

Goins emerged as a star of the freshman class with a program-record tying four goals in a win over Abilene Christian the second weekend of the season. She was the first Arkansas player to score four times in a game since 2001 and had multiple chances to break the record, finishing with seven shots on goal.

“She’s obviously a very talented player and we knew that coming in, but she’s adapted well to the college game,” Hale said. “I think her and the freshmen keep getting better every training session.

“I would say the whole freshman class, as the season goes on, they get a little more comfortable and know what to expect a little more, and keep getting better and better.”

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