05 October 2014

Calling battle of SEC heavyweights on Sunday: No. 6 Florida at Arkansas

Only two women's soccer teams remain unbeaten in SEC play through four rounds of play, and those two will go head-to-head Sunday morning (noon ET) in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when No. 6 Florida (9-2, 4-0 SEC) takes on Arkansas (6-2-4, 2-0-2 SEC). I'll have the call on the SEC Network with 1999 World Cup-winning coach Tony DiCicco (nice resume, eh?).

Where we'll be watching from.
Florida's won five games in a row, including a dramatic 1-0 win at Texas A&M on Friday night in a battle of the conference's top two teams. Arkansas is no slouch, though: The Razorbacks made a Cinderella run to the NCAA Round of 16 last year in the first NCAA tournament appearance in their 28-year history! They play a rough-and-tumble polar opposite of Florida's smooth passing game, so it will provide yet another game featuring a contrast in styles.

You want stars? Florida has US U-20 forward Savannah Jordan, who scored 22 goals as a freshman last year and had the game-winner against A&M (and scored to eliminate Arkansas in last year's SEC quarterfinals). The Gators have 6-foot-1 goalkeeper Taylor Burke, a dual soccer/high-jump star who is one shutout away from tying the Florida career record. They also have a 6-foot Slovenian international with crazy hair and one of the best center-back tandems around. Fun team to watch.

You'll be happy to know I got a lower-key rental car this week.
Arkansas has US U-23 attacker Ashleigh Ellenwood, whose long throw-ins are a vital part of the Razorback game plan -- sometimes it looks like her arms are more tired than her legs at the end of a game! Senior Tyler Allen has already been on SportsCenter twice this year, thanks to her habit of sending in dangerous free kicks from deep positions. The Razorbacks also have bright underclassmen in goalkeeper Cameron Carter and attackers Sparky Fischer and Nicole Ortega. (I use the generic term "attackers" because trying to assign consistent spots to Arkansas's formations is extremely difficult.)

Moving planks one at a time. to support the lift
When I landed this afternoon, I went straight to Razorback Field, where our intrepid crew was setting up for the 11 am (local time) kickoff on Sunday. That meant I got to see how they lined up the scissor lift for our end-zone camera without messing up the stadium's grass: CAREFULLY.

Well worth it for a great view on Sunday.
Coaches love to talk about chess matches on the field ... this one was at the airport.

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