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Arkansas falls in tournament final to LSU after PK’s

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The 24th-ranked Razorback soccer team fell short of its first Southeastern Conference Tournament title Sunday afternoon, falling to LSU in penalty kicks, 4-1, after ending the first 110 minutes of the match tied 1-1. It was the fifth time Arkansas reached the finals, with this year being the third in a row.

“First off, congrats to LSU,” Arkansas head coach Colby Hale said. “I’m gutted for our players. They gave it their all. It took a wonderstrike from 45 yards to beat us and this stings right now. We will get back to Fayetteville and get ready for NCAAs. We still have a lot more to play for and I wouldn’t want to go to the national tournament with any other group.”

The Razorbacks (13-5-3) had come so close in each of the last two years, falling by a single goal in 2016 to Florida and in 2017 to Texas A&M. This year, the Razorbacks looked like it would break the drought with Malham scoring her fifth goal of the season in the 13th minute.

Junior Stefani Doyle had the first look at the net on the play and fired from the top of the box, but her shot bounced off the crossbar and back into play. Malham picked up the rebound and headed it back in for the score.

Malham now has five goals on the year and 18 points, tying her with junior Tori Cannata for second on the team. Doyle now has seven assists on the year and 11 points, good for fifth on the team.

Arkansas was the aggressor in the first half, but LSU started to turn up the heat in the second half, pressuring the back line to find shots on goal. The Tigers tied the game on a 45-yard strike from Shannon Cooke in the 72nd minute.

After going through both overtimes without a goal, both teams had to settle in penalty kicks to determine the champion. LSU, who had defeated Tennessee in 7-6 in penalty kicks earlier in the tournament, went first in Sunday’s shootout. Alex Thomas of LSU made the first shot to put LSU up 1-0, before Stefani Doyle had her shot blocked by the LSU keeper.

The Tigers proceeded to make their second shot, and went up 2-0 after Taylor Malham’s shot hit the left post and went wide. Haley VanFossen gave the Razorbacks life in the third round of shots, but needing to hold the Tigers scoreless under a 3-1 deficit proved too much. LSU’s Abbey Newton would drain the final shot to end the match 4-1 in PK’s.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s final, VanFossen, Doyle, and junior Kayla McKeon were named to the All-Tournament team. McKeon had the game-winner against Florida giving her a team-leading five game-winners on the year.

Arkansas now awaits to see who its first opponent will be in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be aired on NCAA.com tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.

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