Friday, 8:00 PM
Oklahoma (10-8-4; 6th – Big XII; WTSR – 0.90, 7th – Big XII)
Arkansas (8-6-6; 9th – SEC; WTSR – 1.02, 8th – SEC)
Wait, One Of These Two Teams Is Going To Be In The Second Round?
Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
How Are Arkansas Even Here? Didn’t They Finish Ninth in a League Not Named the “Pac-12″?
And it gets worse. Arkansas’ won a whopping one match in their last six, two in their last eight, and three in their last eleven. They won eight (eight!) matches. Ultimately though, it was probably the win against Kentucky from the beginning of the league season in Fayetteville that got them to this point. God knows what else it could have been. The Lady Razorbacks haven’t drawn or beaten a team in the RPI Top 45 since that win.
Well, So Now That They’re Here, What Are Arkansas’ Chances of Hanging Around?
Let’s put it this way: It’s a lot higher than it would’ve been had Arkansas been dealt a different first round matchup. Whoever wins this one is probably getting beaten like a drum by Stanford, but the Lady Razorbacks do have a pretty good chance of winning this one. For as much as Arkansas has struggled on defense during the closing weeks of the season, the offense has still been able to at least not get shut out that often. It’s happened a grand total of one time since league play began, oddly enough against Alabama. Alexandra Fischer has provided an offensive boost with four league goals, while Ashleigh Ellenwood led the league in assists in SEC play with seven. Ellenwood’s still the dominant force in the attack, for better or for worse with a team leading seventy-three shots. With just five goals though, it hasn’t been the most efficient season in front of goal, especially when you consider she netted just one on forty shots in SEC play. She’ll need to pick her chances wisely and keep bringing her teammates into the game to avoid a first round exit for her side though.
I Noticed You Didn’t Mention The Defense.
Yeah. So Arkansas’ defense happens to be a bit of a train wreck. They’ve conceded multiple goals in three of their last five and have just one clean sheet in that span, against a woeful Mississippi State side. The team has shipped three to the likes of Florida, Duke, and LSU and have just six clean sheets in twenty matches this year. The Lady Razorbacks have often played with a sweeper system at the back, which is unorthodox, to say the least and comes with all the usual problems with playing a sweeper. Add the fact that Cameron Carter has seemingly become a liability in goal with some infuriating individual errors, and you’ve got a unit whose form may ultimately undermine the club’s chances of making it out of the first weekend.
Alright, So Give Me The Case for Oklahoma.
Well, the Sooners beat Kansas twice in the last few weeks, beat Baylor in a penalty shootout and didn’t quite embarrass themselves against West Virginia in the Big XII Tournament final, so it’s hard to argue that they aren’t the form team in this matchup. Wins over Florida and Texas Tech have shown what the Sooners can do against top opposition when they’re on top of their game. And as weird as things get for teams facing Arkansas, I’m going to guess that the Lady Razorbacks haven’t faced too many opponents who line up with five in the back as OU did against WVU in the Big XII Tournament final.
I Get The Feeling You’re About To Drop A Whole Lot of Anvils On Me.
Yup. The Sooners have still won just two of their last nine matches, both over Kansas. They endured a horrible stretch of five straight league games without a win after winning their first two Big XII matches. The defense isn’t terrible, or at least wasn’t in the Big XII, but the offense barely packed a punch, netting just seven goals in eight league goals. They’ve scored multiple goals in just one of their last fifteen matches and were shutout in both of their final Big XII Tournament matches. Just one player, Devin Barrett, had more than a single goal in the league, and she’s also their leading scorer with five goals. It might also be telling that the club’s leading shot taker is Abby Hodgen, a midfielder who took forty-three shots this year but netted just once…from the penalty spot, and who put 28% of her shots on goal. So yeah, if OU goes behind, it likely spells big trouble.
Pick A Winner, Booker Man!
I’m tempted to just flip a coin. But Arkansas has the best player on the pitch on Ellenwood, are much tougher to prepare for given their penchant for chopping, changing, and ~CHAOS; and perhaps most importantly, may be a lot better rested after going home from Orange Beach on Monday, while OU struggled to a Sunday meeting with West Virginia. Heavy legs could prove decisive come crunch time on Friday.