Henderson Gets Kick From This Team

FAYETTEVILLE - Scotland native Gordon Henderson says it's probably a good thing he wasn't watching the Ryder Cup Matches with his American wife, Lisa, last weekend.

Arkansas' first-year soccer coach, a golf enthusiast, usually watches the biennial golf matches with his wife, each cheering boisterously for his or her native land.

"It's a good job I wasn't home this time," Henderson said, referring to Europe's landslide victory. "Lisa and I are very passionate about the Ryder Cup. On Sunday, my cellphone kept cutting out and I was disappearing in the airport to find television sets and cheer the (European) side."

The Lady Razorbacks played at Old Dominion on Sunday, losing 3-1 to dip to 4-4 for the season.

"I need to do a better job of scheduling in the future," Henderson joked.

Actually, the Lady'Backs are nearly on pace for one of the 10 goals they set before the season.

"We wanted to be 5-3 in nonconference, heading into our 11-game Southeastern Conference schedule," Henderson said. "That would have been Arkansas' best start in 15 years. As it is, 4-4 is still our best start since 1996. That's pretty good."

One of Henderson's mottos is, "Reach for the stars and sometimes settle for ice cream."

So the Lady'Backs can still order pistachio this week.

"Now the pressure mounts and the stress mounts as we jump into the SEC," Henderson said. "But it's fun. I think we're ready to go."

Arkansas plays host to Vanderbilt (1-4-1) on Friday in a match which has been moved up to 6:30 p.m. so Fox Sports Net can televise it. Vandy leads the series 10-4-1.

On Sunday, Kentucky (3-4) comes to town for a 1 p.m. match at Lady'Back Field. The Wildcats lead that series 7-2.

"We're expecting a huge crowd Friday night," Henderson said. "Vanderbilt and Kentucky are two teams we definitely can play with."

In fact, Henderson believes the Lady Razorbacks can qualify for the eight-team SEC Tournament in early November -- another of their 10 goals.

"It's a reasonable expectation," Henderson said. "We haven't been there in five or six years, but if you don't have that expectation, you're defeated before you begin.

"We have done a tremendous amount of hard work. I couldn't be prouder of a group of women for what they have accomplished in a short time."

But winning matches in the SEC will be tough for a young team in a transition year under a new coach.

"Not until I listened to the announcer at Old Dominion list our players before the last game did I realize how young we were," Henderson said. "I said, 'Oh, we ARE young!'"

Happily for Henderson, Vanderbilt graduated a large senior class last year also and has been "struggling."

"We'll be surprised if we don't get some positives out of this weekend," Henderson said.

Jen Brashear, a 5-foot-4 senior from Little Rock, has given the young Lady'Backs an experienced presence.

"Jen has an aura, like (UA junior) Megan McCool and (sophomore) Tina Burger," Henderson said. "They have some SEC experience. Jen plays best when she gets mad. After someone takes a run at her, I personally would get out of her way for the next 15 minutes."

Henderson is undaunted by the fact that Arkansas must go on the road for four straight SEC matches after this weekend.

"We're in a great place, like the European Ryder Cup team," he said. "We're underdogs in nearly every game, but our work ethic and attitude is superb right now. I tell our players, 'If you lose, you lose; if you win, it's a bonus.'"

Three or four wins could get the Lady'Backs to the SEC Tournament, Henderson said.

One or two this weekend would make a nice start.

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