ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — Arkansas its amazing run come to an end Sunday afternoon as No. 11 Texas A&M scored a go-ahead goal in the 88th minute to win the 2017 SEC Tournament title.
After Arkansas (11-10-2) fell behind in the first half on an own goal, freshman Parker Goins equalized her team in the 81st minute with her ninth goal of the year, possibly sending the match to overtime. Unfortunately, the Aggies took the lead for good in the 88th minute on an individual effort score by Emily Bates, sealing the championship for Texas A&M.
“There’s two ways to look at this game,” Arkansas coach Colby Hale said. “We’ve played five games in 11 days and played well enough to win today, but we’re not a moral victory team. It stinks. This is probably one we’ll need a day or two to recover from, but obviously there were a lot of positives. The work they’ve put in is superhuman and I’m very impressed with that.”
The loss to the Aggies ended an improbable run by the Razorbacks, who were the eight-seed coming into the tournament, but still reached the final for the second-consecutive year.
Arkansas was the lowest-seeded team to ever make the final and was playing in its fourth game in eight days.
Arkansas played Texas A&M tough, taking seven shots in 90 minutes with two going on target. The team even had its chances with set pieces as it won the corners game, 5-4.
Of the four goals scored throughout the tournament, two had come off of either a corner kick or a free kick.
The defense of the Razorbacks was on full display, as well, on Sunday. Even though the Aggies put 11 shots up, only five actually hit the target.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jordan Harris made four saves, one away from tying her season high.
For the tournament, the New Mexico native made 14 saves, leading all goalkeepers in the field, and allowed three goals in 380 minutes for a 0.71 goals against average, the second lowest for any keeper in the tournament.
For her strong play, Harris was named to the all-tournament team along with freshmen Taylor Malham and Haley VanFossen.
Both Malham and VanFossen was key components of getting Arkansas to the championship game.
Malham scored the game-winner in the first round against nine-seed Ole Miss, while VanFossen had the game-winning assist in the 1-0 shutout to take out top-seeded South Carolina.
For much of the first half, Arkansas and Texas A&M traded possession balls at midfield, getting multiple looks in each attacking side, but neither team getting a very good look at the net.
A great chance for Arkansas came in the 36th minute when Reid Sibley received a great through ball from Stefani Doyle and just had to beat the keeper on the right side.
Texas A&M goalkeeper Cosette Morche came off her line and disrupted Sibley just enough to not allow a strong shot at the goal.
One minute later, A&M scored the game’s first goal as a cross came in from the right side, but the clearance attempt by Tori Cannata deflected the ball into the right side of Arkansas’ net.
Texas A&M took that 1-0 lead at halftime, but Arkansas came out as the aggressors in the second half. All five of the Razorbacks’ shot attempts went on target, including Goins’ long-range strike from 15 yards out.
With just 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Goins corralled a ball that pinballed around after a throw in and one-timed it past the keeper on the far post to tie the match at 1-1. Goins continues to lead the team in points (25) and goals (9) this season and ranks fourth and fifth in the conference, respectively, in those categories.
Goins’ rocket wasn’t enough as Texas A&M scored its second goal just seven minutes later to re-take the lead for good.
Even with the gut-wrenching loss to end the tournament, Hale believes his team has many more memories to make as the postseason continues next week.
“We came together as a team this week,” Hale said. “We peaked at the right time, got some performances that were pretty good, and I can’t imagine anyone is going to watch that game and say ‘Dear god, I hope we get the Razorbacks.’”
Arkansas sets its sights on what’s to come, as the NCAA Tournament will begin next week. The selection show for the national tournament is set for tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on NCAA.com.