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Arkansas concludes strong season in NCAA tournament

31 days ago
Photo: Arkansas Athletics

RALEIGH, N.C.- Arkansas' bid to reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight time came up short Saturday afternoon as 21st-ranked NC State bested the Razorbacks, 4-1, at the Dail Soccer Complex, ending the 2017 season.

Arkansas (11-11-2) put up a valiant effort against the Wolfpack with eight players earning shots. Sophomore Stefani Doyle scored her fifth goal of the year in the 81st minute, but NC State had already built up a 4-0 lead by that point.

For Doyle, she became the second active Razorback to score in an NCAA Tournament match, joining senior Jessi Hartzler, who scored in last year's first round match against Memphis.

Redshirt junior Jordan Harris earned five saves in her 90 minutes of play, tying her season high. Unfortunately, the four goals allowed was also a season high for the New Mexico native.

"First off, congrats to NC State," Arkansas head coach Colby Hale said. "This is a time where you have to look at it from both sides. The first thing is, this is not how we drew it up. At the same time, we (Arkansas) made the fourth NCAA Tournament in program history. We're not a moral victory team. We've said that before because we come to play and we come to win. I thought we were good enough to win today. This time of year it's tough. You have to say goodbye to a group of seniors, who have done a lot for the program and we're certainly thankful for them and all they've done. They've left the program in a great place."

Five of Arkansas' six seniors - Hannah Neece, Jordan Harris, Reid Sibley, Katie Kienstra, Jessi Hartzler - saw action in their final match representing the Razorbacks. Qyara Winston was not able to play due to injury. Sibley and Hartzler both recorded shots, while Neece made her sixth-straight start, concluding a great postseason after returning from injury.

Hartzler concludes a fantastic career as a Razorback, making 86 appearances over the last four years, which ranks in a tie for second all-time in program history. The Kearney, Missouri native finished with six game-winning goals in her career, two coming this season.

In the net, Harris finished one of the best seasons by a Razorback goalkeeper Saturday. In 18 matches, Harris allowed just 17 goals for an 0.95 goals against average, the third-lowest single-season goals against average in school history. Her eight shutouts are also the second most in a season in school history.

The second half of the season that Arkansas displayed was nothing short of extraordinary. After making the SEC Tournament as the eight seed and running through the field to the tournament final for the second-straight year was one for the history books. With the three wins in the tournament, the Razorbacks secured their ninth 10-win season in school history, third under Hale.

"We kept talking a lot about writing our own story," Hale said. "The team did a tremendous job of fighting until the end and getting into the tournament. Making the NCAA tournament in four out of the last five years when no team before it had ever been is progress. We told the team it is ok for this to sting a little bit, but I think when we look back on the season, we'll look back on it with fond memories. We achieved a lot and this team had a lot of character."