Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Razorbacks expect every team's best
Arkansas coach Colby Hale is shown with players prior to a game against Tennessee on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas women’s soccer Coach Colby Hale told his team that it better get used to getting an opponent’s best shot.
The No. 16 Razorbacks (7-2, 2-0 SEC) did just that, outlasting Texas A&M 1-0 in overtime on the road on Thursday despite a slow start.
“We weren’t very good in the first. We were flat,” Hale said. “They played hard and I think everyone’s getting up for us. We’re now the league favorite. You got that target on your back. I think the team understands it and is embracing it.”
Hale expects more of the same as Ole Miss (7-1-2, 2-0) comes to Razorback Field today for a 1 p.m. start. The Rebels have won four in a row and are fresh off a 2-0 win over No. 5 LSU.
“They’re a good team, RPI No. 4 right now, I think,” Hale said. “Very good on set pieces, they’ve got a great goalkeeper and they’ve got some special attacking players.”
Senior Molly Martin leads Ole Miss with seven goals surpassing her total of the last three seasons combined (six). Junior forward Anna Podojil, who scored the game-winner against the Aggies, leads Arkansas with six goals along with five assists, while senior Parker Goins has five goals and a team-best six assists.
Hale expects today’s match to be different from some recent matches against Tennessee and Brigham Young with the expected warm temperatures.
“It’s supposed to be like 90 degrees,” Hale said. “A lot of times those games have a different tempo. I think we call it set-piece Sunday. Whoever wins the set piece game probably wins the game.”
And executing soccer’s version of set plays still needs some work for his team, Hale said.
“We’re good at defending set pieces, but our attacking — we’ve gotta sort some things out,” Hale said.
Despite the slow start against the Aggies, Hale liked what the Razorbacks showed in the second half.
“I thought we wore ‘em down,” Hale said. “Fifteen, 16 shots, nine corners or something like that in the second half. So it was coming, it was just a matter of when.
“We fought through it. We said great teams find ways to win when you don’t have your best and we did that.”
Arkansas, which has now won seven straight, has currently taken that spot as the top team in the SEC, Hale said.
“We’ve won four straight against A&M,” Hale said. “They used to dominate the league and we’ve made it our goal for us to be that team. I think that, combined with two SEC championships probably says we’re in the driver’s seat for that position right now.”
The Razorbacks, who were ranked No. 13 in the preseason, jumped back into the United Soccer Coaches poll this week thanks to their win over then-No. 13 Tennessee.
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