Andrew Joseph is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Razorbacks roll to another SEC championship
The Arkansas soccer team celebrates Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, after winning its fourth SEC regular-season championship in the last five seasons.
FAYETTEVILLE — The ninth-ranked Arkansas soccer team clinched a share of its fourth SEC regular-season title since 2019 with a 5-1 victory over Ole Miss on Sunday.
Arkansas (11-3-2, 6-1-1 SEC) stands alone atop the conference leaderboard with 22 points and can secure an outright title with a home win against Mississippi State on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
South Carolina (11-1-5, 5-4 SEC) would claim a share of the championship with another win and an Arkansas loss in their respective regular-season finales.
“I have three [championships] now and it’s just a testament to our grit and determination,” senior forward Ava Tankersley said. “We still have business to take care of on Thursday to clinch the whole thing.”
The Razorbacks scored early and often against the Rebels (6-7-3, 2-5-2) and held a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes.
Arkansas converted a 3-on-1 attack led by forward Morgan White in the ninth minute. She drove at the last defender and slotted the ball across the face of the goal to Sophia Aragon, who guided the ball inside the far post for the opener.
The clinical offense later stunned Ole Miss with a pair of quick strikes within moments. Off a corner kick, freshman forward Bella Field rose above the rest to head the ball off the crossbar and into the net in the 25th minute.
Two minutes later, Tankersley added a third goal with a left-footed finish that took a deflection on its way to the goal. She has scored in five of the last six matches, and recorded an assist against LSU in her sole scoreless outing.
“She plays with a chip on her shoulder,” Arkansas coach Colby Hale said. “Even when she wasn’t scoring goals, she was playing well.”
Tankersley is far from the only offensive threat along the Arkansas frontline. The Razorbacks have had 16 different goal scorers in 2023. Nine players have multiple goals.
“We’ve got enough good players where a different player can be a top player for us every game,” Hale said.
In the 56th minute, All-America forward Anna Podojil refused to be left on the scoresheet as she reacted to a loose ball in the box and scored a volley from 6 yards away. Her quick finish gave the Razorbacks a 4-0 lead and extended her iron-clad grip on the program’s all-time goal record (49).
The Razorbacks’ final score came from freshman midfielder Kennedy Ball who entered the match as a substitute in the 72nd minute and scored five minutes later. Six Razorbacks have scored off the bench this season.
Freshman goalkeeper Phoebe Carver played all 90 minutes in goal and conceded a goal in the 79th minute. She has allowed 3 goals and made 21 saves in 8 appearances this season.
In 2019, the Razorbacks won their first conference championship in Year 8 of Hale’s tenure and have not looked back. Arkansas also won the league title in 2020 and 2021.
“One thing we were striving for after the first [title] was consistency,” Hale said. “We did not want to be a flash in the pan. I think we have proven we’re here to stay.”
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