Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
UA soccer rides big second half vs. Rebels
Taylor Malham celebrates with Arkansas teammates during a game against Ole Miss on Sept. 26, 2021 at Razorback Field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Ole Miss used the wind at its back to grab a 1-0 halftime lead, but No. 16 Arkansas blew past the Rebels 4-1 with a big second half in SEC women’s soccer Sunday afternoon at Razorback Field.
Senior forward Anna Podojil had two goals and a stiff Arkansas (8-2, 3-0 SEC) defense limited Ole Miss to just two shots in the final 45 minutes to stay undefeated in SEC play.
Senior defender Bryana Hunter said the Razorbacks weren’t panicked at halftime, despite trailing for the first time since the season opener more than a month ago.
“I think it was more we were kinda shocked at how fast they came out,” said Hunter, who was honored on Monday as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week. “It was like their first corner. We kinda startled at the beginning. We were kinda tense at halftime but we knew we could come back in the second half.”
The Razorbacks outshot the Rebels 14-2 in the second half and put the match away with two goals in the final 16 minutes for their eighth consecutive victory.
Taylor Malham, who also finished with two assists, got the equalizing goal just three minutes into the second half for Arkansas. Podojil, a first-team All America selection by the United Soccer Coaches last season, then gave the Razorbacks the lead for good in the 62nd minute.
Ava Tankersley got into the act with a goal in the 74th minute, and Podojil added her team-best eighth goal of the season to finish the scoring in the 84th minute.
Ole Miss (7-2-2, 2-1 SEC) came in with plenty of momentum after knocking off No. 5 LSU 2-0 on Friday. Mo O’Connor gave the Rebels the early lead off an assist from Taylor Radecki in the 11th minute as Ole Miss controlled play on its end for the most part in the first 20 minutes.
Arkansas Coach Colby Hale said a stiff breeze combined with Ole Miss keeper Ashley Orkus kept the Razorbacks in a bit of a bind, but he thought that would turn around in the second half.
“They had the wind in the first and their keeper could smash a ball, so we were dealing with some deep, deep clearances and it kind of changed the geography,” Hale said. “We knew they’d get pinned in a little bit in the second. We liked our depth, and I thought some of our kids went in and did a tremendous job. Our older players stepped up.
“I said at half, ‘we’ve got three goals in us.’ I was wrong we had four. But we knew it was coming. We had fresher legs. I thought our fitness was good. We had better depth and then we had the wind. I woulda bet a lot of money we were going to score three or four goals.”
Hale said the defense has been outstanding as its been all season. Arkansas has surrendered just three goals in its eight-match winning streak.
“They are tremendous,” Hale said. “Those are really good attacking players. They scored on a set piece, we need to clean that up but overall really pleased especially in the second half. They didn’t even sniff a goal.”
Arkansas also played most of the match without junior midfielder Jessica De Filippo, who was injured in the 16th minute and had to be assisted off the field. The transfer from Louisville has two goals and three assists, but her status is uncertain, Hale said. She was on crutches after the match with her left knee immobilized.
The Razorbacks continue SEC play at Georgia at noon Central on Sunday in a match that will be broadcast on ESPNU.
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