State of the Hogs: Beating Texas

Arkansas soccer coach Colby Hale found out that beating Texas is always big for Razorback Nation.

First-year Arkansas soccer coach Colby Hale knew that Sunday's 1-0 victory over Texas was a big victory. He was just surprised how big.

Hale knew that Texas was a rival for the Razorbacks from the old Southwest Conference days. But that was 20 years ago and he though perhaps some of that had faded.

And he knew that it was a huge victory for the 16 Texas products on the Arkansas roster. He could see the passion in the eyes of his players as they fought past the Longhorns.

"It was a little funny as we watched Kelly Roliard at the press conference after the game," Hale said. "We were kidding her that we were surprised she could talk because her smile was so big. I knew it was big for the Texas kids."

Roliard, sophomore goalkeeper from Spring, Texas, made five saves for the Razorbacks. She's been solid to help the team to a 2-0 start. The Razorbacks play host to Missouri State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Finally, some with Arkansas roots -- Bentonville's Margaret Power and Little Rock's Haley Hatcher -- stepped up to explain that it goes a little deeper than that. They told Hale about the history between the two programs and states.

"We were in a training session the next day and Margarat said, 'Coach, you don't get it.' I have to admit maybe I didn't. I'm starting to get it now."

Hale came to Arkansas from Central Florida. Before that, he played and coached at Oral Roberts. But he has a hard time listing a home town. His father was in the Air Force and he lived in 10 states and abroad.

"I just didn't fully understand," Hale said. "People have let me know more clearly. (Athletic director) Jeff Long came up to me after the game and said a few things. He told me that our fans have great passion for beating Texas and they would love this result.

"I could tell it was enormous for the kids. And I got a glimpse of what it meant to our Arkansas players."

Then there was the man who found Hale afterwards to offer a passionate handshake.

"He said, 'I'm 60, and I've been waiting 57 years for this,'" Hale said.

The fan then showed Hale the downward Hook 'Em sign.

Hale said the congratulatory emails and texts have flowed all week from fans and recruits.

"We have a lot of Texas girls that we are recruiting," he said. "That's always going to be an area we hit hard in recruiting. So this really does help us."

However, Hale tries to keep it in perspective. It may fire up fans, but it counts just one in the victory column. There is still more work to do. Texas, also under a new coach, held a 14-2 edge in corner kicks. The Razorbacks have many areas that need work.

"We have not arrived just yet," Hale said. "We are not good at a lot of things. We did execute the game plan. Win helps morale. We did have some success in our first weekend.

"It's always interesting on the opening weekend and we know we still haven't solved all of the world's problems."

Jeriann Okoro, product of DeSoto, Texas, got the goal against the Longhorns, dazzling the keeper with a move to find an open net. It came in the 72nd minute and was the second straight victory with a goal close to the end.

"I wouldn't describe either win as pretty," Hale said. "I think we did get the sense as the games wore on we were going to win. I think scoring late to win gives you confidence to keep grinding and that's been something we've talked about, just keep grinding."

The offense has been spread out.

"We have three goals all by different players," Hale said. "We have four assists, by different players. I've said from the start that we would be like that, the sum of the parts is better than the individuals. We are not going to overwhelm anyone with talent. I think our players have embraced that approach."

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