No. 8 seed Razorbacks get shot at title

Posted: November 5, 2017 at 1:54 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas likely has done enough to earn a trip to another NCAA Soccer Tournament, but the Razorbacks would like to leave no doubt Sunday.

Arkansas will play No. 11 Texas A&M in the SEC Soccer Tournament Championship Game at 2 p.m. in Orange Beach, Ala. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

The Razorbacks (11-9-2) are the lowest-seeded team to ever make the final round of the SEC Tournament. Arkansas entered as the league's No. 8 seed but have defeated No. 9 seed Ole Miss, No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 4 seed Vanderbilt during their 10-day stay in Orange Beach.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is ranked No. 50 in the latest RPI, but that has not been updated since the Razorbacks' biggest victory of the year, a 1-0 decision over South Carolina in the SEC quarterfinals Tuesday. The Gamecocks entered ranked No. 3 nationally with only one loss all season.

"I would be shocked if we're not in [the NCAA Tournament]," said Arkansas Coach Colby Hale, who has led the Razorbacks to three NCAA postseason appearances since 2013. "We have five or six results against the top 50 ... and we beat South Carolina."

Arkansas has allowed only one goal in three games at the SEC Tournament. After 1-0 victories over Ole Miss and South Carolina, the Razorbacks were tied 1-1 with Vanderbilt after regulation and a 20-minute overtime but beat the Commodores 4-2 in penalty kicks to advance to the tournament championship for the second consecutive season.

The Razorbacks lost to Florida in overtime of the title game last season and never have won a conference championship. Arkansas also finished runner-up at the tournament in 1993 and 1996.

"They're pretty excited," Hale said. "I think they want this one pretty bad. They had a taste of it last year and ... they're so hungry to win their first championship."

Arkansas entered the SEC Tournament with losses in two of its final three regular-season matchups, but Hale said coaches have not been surprised by the run.

"It's funny, we kind of saw this coming," Hale said. "We had so many calls against us, and we have an extremely young team that is still growing up. We just kept saying that some of the adversity we've experienced this season was paying off.

"It just kind of felt like some things were going to go our way, and they have."

Hale said his team has been bolstered by the return of senior defender Hannah Neece, who missed two months with an injury.

"She played every second of every game the last five games," Hale said. "I've always said we were a pretty good team and things are coming together."

Texas A&M (16-2-1) advanced to the tournament championship with a 2-1 overtime victory over Florida on Thursday -- the winning goal scored when a Florida player inadvertently headed a deflection past the Gators' goalkeeper.

Arkansas lost 2-1 at Texas A&M in September. Counting the game against the Aggies, the Razorbacks had an 0-3-1 record during the regular season against the teams they played in the SEC Tournament.

At a glance

ARKANSAS VS. TEXAS A&M WHAT Championship game of the SEC Women’s Soccer Tournament - WHEN 2 p.m. today WHERE Orange Beach (Ala.) Sportsplex RECORDS Arkansas (11-9-2); Texas A&M (16-2-1) TV SEC Network

Sports on 11/05/2017