ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - The 24th-ranked Razorback soccer team is, once again, in the SEC Tournament final after defeating eight-seed Florida, 1-0, in overtime Friday afternoon. Junior Kayla McKeon headed in a perfect cross from junior Marissa Kinsey in the 92nd minute, sending Arkansas to its third-straight tournament final appearance, fifth overall.
Arkansas (13-4-3) will be going for its first SEC Tournament championship on Sunday when it will face seven-seed LSU at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Razorbacks beat LSU earlier this season, 2-1, in double overtime, getting a two-goal performance from junior Tori Cannata.
LSU (13-6-2) reaches the title game after winning three matches this week, similar to Arkansas' run last year. The Tigers have eliminated 10-seed Missouri, two-seed Tennessee and six-seed South Carolina en route to its title appearance.
McKeon's goal was her eighth of the year, tying her with fellow junior Tori Cannata, who scored one goal in Arkansas' 4-0 win over Ole Miss on Tuesday. Friday's score was McKeon's fifth game-winning goal of the year, the most by a Razorback since Lindsey Mayo had five during the 2016 season.
The Razorbacks have made reaching the tournament final normal practice over the last three seasons, but have yet to raise the trophy as conference tournament champions in their history. In each of its last two appearances, the goal difference has been only one goal. Arkansas fell to Florida in 2016, 2-1 in overtime, then fell to Texas A&M by the same score in regulation in 2017.
By reaching Sunday's championship game, Arkansas is the first team to make the final in three or more consecutive seasons since Florida made it five-straight seasons between 2010 and 2014.
"This team is just tough. I think they really wanted it. They've seen two different teams celebrate winning the title and I think this team just said 'We want to win it. We want to win an SEC championship. Every team is a little bit different and we thought this team had a chance to do it. I couldn't be more proud of them." - Head coach Colby Hale how his team was able to reach the SEC Tournament final for the third-straight season
"It's interesting so far. We've played two teams that have beaten us earlier this season, but got to face them again in this tournament. This team just has a tremendous mentality. When all the chips are on the table, this team is the one you want to bet on." - Head coach Colby Hale on the mentality his team has had this season with the goal of winning the SEC Tournament title this week
"We're extremely excited about this. We just lost to Florida, 3-0, last week, so it was good to come out and get a team win like this. We've all bought in to our plan and this shows how much we've come together as a team. It's really impressive." - Carly Hoke on the win over Florida
"I honestly thought the ball was going to go out. But when Stef (Doyle) saved it and Marissa (Kinsey) put in a good cross, it was a whole team effort. We were in their half for nearly the entire game and it was the press that hurt them. We just kept going and kept fighting and knew we would eventually get one." - Kayla McKeon on her game-winning goal
"It's just about the way we play and the way we press. All year, we've been preparing for this. The way we practice prepares us for this. It's nice we've made it three years in a row, but we want to win it this time." - Carly Hoke on reaching the SEC Tournament final three years in a row
"We are ready to get the ring. We've made it to two-straight championships and we've been working towards this since last year and even since my freshman year. We are very ready to finish this thing out. We know we are very capable of it." - Kayla McKeon on the motivation of trying to win the program's first championship
Other Key Notes
- With the victory, Arkansas now has 13 wins on the year, which is the third-most ever in a season in program history.
- The goal by Kayla McKeon was her eighth goal of the year, one less than her previous career-high of nine goals set during her freshman season (2016).
- McKeon now has five points in her two tournament games this week, which leads the team. She had a career-high three assists in Arkansas' 4-0 quarterfinal win over Ole Miss on Tuesday.
- Friday's win was Arkansas' second win all-time against the Gators, the first coming in 2016. Florida leads the all-time series with Arkansas, 2-22.
- Arkansas is returning to the SEC Tournament final for the third-consecutive season and will be making its fifth appearance in the final all-time.
- Arkansas is now tied for the second-most tournament final appearances all-time. Florida leads all teams with 17 appearances, while Arkansas, Tennessee and Auburn each have five appearances.
- Marissa Kinsey has had a hand in three of Arkansas' five goals during this week's SEC Tournament, including Friday's winner over Florida. Kinsey only had one assist coming into the tournament, but now has four goals and four assists (12 points) heading into Sunday's final.
- The Razorbacks locked up their eighth shutout of the year and second of the tournament after defeating Florida, 1-0. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Beitz has been in goal for six of those clean sheets and is averaging four saves in those matches.
The Razorbacks will go for its first SEC Tournament title on Sunday when it faces seven-seed LSU at 1 p.m. at the Orange Beach Sportsplex. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.