Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
UA soccer gets second chance against LSU
Arkansas coach Colby Hale is shown with players prior to a game against Tennessee on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Fayetteville.
Senior Kayla McKeon said she and her teammates were talking about getting another crack at LSU not long after the Tigers stopped the University of Arkansas women’s soccer team’s 14-match winning streak on Thursday evening in Baton Rouge.
“That was discussed on the plane before we even got home,” said McKeon, who earned All-Southeastern Conference second-team honors for the second time in her Razorback career on Sunday. “It is definitely something we’re looking forward to.
“We just kind of need to brush it off. Let it sting a little bit, but also move forward and move on.”
The No. 4 Razorbacks (14-3) get their second chance at 5 p.m. today in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala. LSU (11-6-1) edged Georgia in a shootout (5-4) in the 8-9 first-round matchup on Sunday to advance to play top-seeded Arkansas.
That match will be televised on the SEC Network. The semifinals will be Thursday evening and the championship match is slated for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Arkansas coach Colby Hale acknowledged the Razorbacks were devastated following the 4-2 loss in Baton Rouge. They already clinched the outright regular-season SEC title, but wanted to complete an undefeated run through the league, he said.
“They were gutted — I mean gutted,” Hale said. “They really wanted to go 10-0 in the SEC. No one had ever done it. We said no one’s ever done it because it’s really hard because once you’re picked number one, you get everyone’s best effort.”
“We didn’t say much. We don’t have to. We have a good mature team. They know. It’s just a good reminder that winning is hard. When you win 14 in a row sometimes you can forget that a little bit. You just assume it’s going to happen
But he said his team has work left to do.
“We've got to win a game or two to ensure we’re a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which is pretty big,” Hale said. “And I think after a loss our team’s going to be pretty hungry.”
Hale said they played an LSU team that was highly motivated.
“We played a really hungry LSU team, who if they would have lost to us that last game at home on senior night their season was over,” Hale said. “And if they won they were probably in the NCAA Tournament and the SEC Tournament.”
“We never want to lose. I think sometimes those things can be a blessing in disguise in terms of re-focusing you, re-centering you.”
The Razorbacks have won at least a share of each of the last three regular-season league titles, but are searching for their first SEC Tournament title. They have lost in the tournament finals each of the last five years, but are itching to take that last step McKeon said.
“For those of us who have been here for a while, we’ve been to every single championship game,” McKeon said. “I think it’s definitely a focus, something we want to do. It’s not the end goal, but definitely a goal we want to accomplish. We’re also trying to look forward to the NCAA Tournament also.”
But that won’t be easy, Hale said.
“Three of the last four years including us once in 2017 — a team from that 7-10 game made the finals and once they won it,” Hale said. “Vanderbilt won it last year from it.”
Sophomore Ava Tankersley, who was injured in the first half of the Razorbacks’ win over Mississippi State, will return but there’s not a timetable yet, Hale said. She’s played in 16 matches with nine starts and has four goals and six assists.
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