In its NCAA Tournament debut, the University of Arkansas soccer team posted a 2-1 win over Oklahoma State in first-round action Friday night at Cowgirl Soccer Complex.
A fast-paced, physical first half would leave Arkansas (14-8) and Oklahoma State (9-7-6) battling, but the Razorbacks struck in the 33rd minute with a goal by Lindsey Mayo to give Arkansas a 1-0 lead. Claire Kelley sent a ball into the box, and it was settled by Mayo at the near post. The Razorback sophomore turned and sent it far post to put the Razorbacks up 1-0.
Oklahoma State came out of the half striking and looking to take control as a goal by Madison Mercado tied the game at 1-1 in the 48th minute.
“We knew Oklahoma State would come out firing, and they did.” said Head Coach Colby Hale. “We gave up an early goal but we said no matter if something bad or good happens, it all starts from fresh. We just keep fighting and good things happen.”
The Razorbacks were determined for a victory in their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, answering in the 69th minute as a foul on Mercado gave Arkansas a free kick just inside Razorback territory. Tyler Allen sent the ball in, cruising over the heads of Oklahoma State defenders and straight into the goal. The Razorbacks took a 2-1 lead as the free kick by Allen went untouched.
“I’m very proud,” said Hale. “We fight, we battle. We go up a goal, they tie it – no one panics, we just score another goal.”
The Arkansas defense stayed alive through the final minutes of the game, holding off the Cowgirls to go on for the 2-1 lead and picking up the first win in NCAA Tournament history.
“It’s a fantastic group,” said Hale. “We go into every game expecting to win. Those girls have so much belief in themselves. As the game goes late and gets tight they believe they’re going to win.”
Arkansas improves to 14-8 and advances to the second round Friday, Nov. 22, to face the winner of the UCF-St. John's game.