Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Razorbacks face challenge at home in second round
Arkansas coach Colby Hale watches a first round NCAA Tournament game against Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas women’s soccer Coach Colby Hale knows his team has plenty left in the tank, but he’s also sure the Razorbacks’ next opponent will present a serious challenge.
No. 7 Arkansas hosts Virginia Tech in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 6:30 tonight at Razorback Field.
The Razorbacks, a No. 2 seed in the tournament, rolled over Northwestern (La.) State 5-1 in the first round a week ago, and Hale said that was exactly what they needed coming off the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
With a win, Arkansas would advance to play the Purdue-Notre Dame winner on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 in the Sweet 16. That game would also be played at Razorback Field. Purdue and Notre Dame will square off this afternoon at 3:30, also in Fayetteville, prior to Arkansas’ game against Virginia Tech.
More from WholeHogSports: How to watch Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech
“When you play four games in nine days counting the last game of the season, we’re kinda hoping for a game that would allow us to rest some players and we got that,” Hale said. “Sometimes you get to this time of the year and people are tired and done and I don’t think that’s where this team is.
“There’s no doubt the team does great when the challenge is ahead of them and their backs are against the wall. We feel a little bit like the underdog right now even though we’re the two seed and we’re out to prove to people we’re one of the best teams in the country.”
Hale also knows they will face a formidable opponent. Virginia Tech (12-5-2) has won four consecutive after losing three in a row. But the Hokies also tied North Carolina and Duke — two teams that defeated Arkansas earlier in the season. He compared them favorably to a ranked BYU team, which the Razorbacks defeated 2-0 at home on August 30.
“Virginia Tech’s very good … they had a little blip in the middle of the season but finished quite strong,” Hale said. “They’re very athletic, very tough and have some really good attacking players. It’s gonna be a really good team.”
Arkansas dropped a 1-0 game to Virginia Tech in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018 in their last meeting. But Hale said it’s been too long to draw any comparisons between the two teams, but noted that was quite different being played at a neutral site in Cary, N.C.
The Razorbacks have been outstanding at home, fashioning a record of 33-3-2 at Razorback Field since 2018.
“That year we had to play at like a club field,” Hale said.”It was a really weird feeling. There was no environment whatsoever. There was no stands or press boxes. It was a really bizarre feeling. So I think playing in front of our own fans is gonna be a big deal for us.
“We’re really excited to have that opportunity. Just so many people show up regardless of the situation … our fans are fantastic and they make a huge difference. Our record at home over the past how ever many years is gaudy.”
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