Updated: Sept. 5, 2016 at 4:34 p.m.
This post was written by Hatchet reporter Marty Fenn.
No. 17 Arkansas women’s soccer visited the Mount Vernon campus on Sunday afternoon brimming with confidence.
The Razorbacks had already raced out to a 5-0-0 start in 2016, including a 2–0 win over then-No. 2 Duke and a 7–1 thrashing of Northern Iowa, helping them climb to 17th in the NCAA Division I rankings.
The visitors even brought their TV crew along. The match seemed like it would be business as usual for the high-powered SEC program.
But in their first-ever televised game, the Colonials (5-0-0) stunned the Razorbacks (5-1-0) with a nail-biting 1-0 victory on a goal from senior forward MacKenzie Cowley just before the end of the first half.
The win marked the Colonials’ second victory against a ranked opponent in program history — their first since taking down No. 10 Virginia in 1996 — and extended the team’s undefeated streak to five games.
“To be honest, I didn’t know [that fact,] and I don’t think anyone on the team did,” head coach Sarah Barnes said. “Any time you do something that hasn’t been done in a long time, it’s a nice milestone.”
“But I think for us, the bigger picture is preparing for conference play and making sure that all of our non-conference games are giving us more experience to be able to win a conference championship and go to the NCAA Tournament,” she said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
The Colonials took a big step toward that goal after Cowley’s header off a cross from senior defender Kate Elson found the net with just under three minutes to play in the first half.
The Colonials had a single shot on goal up to that point but made the most of a set piece in their attacking third.
Elson dished a short throw-in to junior forward Brittany Cooper, who immediately played the ball back to her. With a nifty touch, Elson flicked the ball past a Razorback defender and carried it towards the box where she lofted a cross that soared over the keeper, finding Cowley’s head at the back post.
“I usually throw the ball in short to [Cooper] or Mia [Barreda’s] feet and then they hold it there for me so that I can run around them,” Elson said. “The other team doesn’t really expect me to come into the attack because I’m a defender.”
While Elson started the play, Cowley finished it off. Despite being frustrated for most of the first half at the inability to get on the ball, Cowley saw the opportunity at hand and took full advantage.
“I almost always run back post because I know that whoever is crossing the ball wants to put it there… plus we practice it every single day,” Cowley said with a chuckle. “Kate always puts it right on my head and I barely have to do anything, which is amazing.”
The goal also kept Cowley’s scoring streak alive. The senior, who led GW with 10 goals as a junior, has scored once in every game this season, giving her a team-best total of five on the year.
“I really want to try to get a goal per game, and that’s been my mentality since the beginning of the year,” Cowley said. “We’ve been getting more chances to finish than we have in the past, so I think that’s also given me more opportunities.”
It wasn’t always pretty, as the Razorbacks dominated possession of the ball for much of the contest, outshot the Colonials 10-3 and played physically all day.
However, coach Barnes’ defense and redshirt junior goalkeeper Miranda Horn were organized, collapsing on balls in the box and making the right plays when they needed to Sunday. The one-goal decision was Horn’s second consecutive shutout and third of the year.
“The balls that they like to play in are 50-50 balls,” Barnes said. “So if you’re matched up correctly, there’s a 50 percent chance you can win the first one, and another 50 percent chance if you’re still marking. That’s a low percentage in the game of soccer.”
The Colonials have a short break before hosting the Delaware Blue Hens on Thursday afternoon at home. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m.