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Arkansas women to host LR in playoff soccer match

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas earned a place in the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Tournament for the fifth time in six years and will host its first-round matchup on Friday at 7 p.m. against Sun Belt Conference champion Little Rock at Razorback Field.

"Getting a chance to host is big for a lot of reasons," said Arkansas head coach Colby Hale. "First, we just got off the road after eight days, so we need to sleep in our beds for a little bit. Not having to travel will be big from a competitive standpoint will be huge, but we're also 9-0-1 at home this year.

"We know how big our fans are and how big of a home field advantage this is. I can't imagine anyone was hoping for the 'at Arkansas' draw. Little Rock is a really good team that won their conference, and our team does really well at home. I'm really looking forward to it."

The match will be streamed online via the SEC Network+ on WatchESPN.com or the Watch ESPN mobile application.

"We're our best when we're at home," said senior Carly Hoke. "We're just excited that we're playing at home for the first round and this is the second ever that we're doing it. We can't dwell on the past. It's important to move forward and everyone is excited for a chance to get started and make a run at it."

Arkansas (13-4-4) is coming off of its third-straight appearance in the Southeastern Conference Tournament final and the fifth in school history. The Razorbacks padded their postseason resume with neutral site wins over Ole Miss and Florida last week to be one of nine SEC teams in this year's field.

"It is really cool, but we're also getting to the point where it's expected a little bit," said junior Kayla McKeon. "We're starting to get the reputation that we're going to be in the tournament every year and hopefully hosting every year.

"It's really cool to be able to do it in front of our fans one more time because we have the best fans in the country. We're undefeated at home right now, so we're looking forward to it. We're just looking it at as one game at a time. You're not going to the next round unless you win the first round. So, that's how we'll approach it and, hopefully, go as far as we can."

Little Rock (13-4-4) won the Sun Belt tournament championship last week after defeating regular-season champion Texas State in penalty kick. It was the program's first Sun Belt title to earn the Trojans' first trip to the national tournament.

The home match marks the second time Arkansas has been selected as a host site for the first round. Razorback Field last played host to an NCAA Tournament match in 2016 when Arkansas defeated Memphis, 2-1, in overtime.

This will be Arkansas' fifth all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, all under Hale. In its history, the Razorbacks are 4-2-2 in NCAA Tournament games and has made it to the second round four out of five times. Including SEC Tournament games, Arkansas is 11-6-5 in postseason matches under Hale.

"Our fans really bring a lot of energy to our games," Hoke said. "We really feed off of that when things are or aren't going our way. To have the opportunity to play at home again is something we're looking forward to. I think this is going to create a really cool atmosphere, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what it will be like."

Sports on 11/07/2018

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