No. 2 Alabama women’s soccer wins defensive thriller against No. 7 Arkansas 


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama’s Riley Mattingly Parker (10) and Gessica Skorka (7) celebrate in the Crimson Tide’s 2-1 victory over the No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks on Oct. 16 at the Alabama Soccer Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The Alabama soccer team rose to one of its toughest challenges in Tuscaloosa on Sunday afternoon. 

The No. 2 Crimson Tide used a late penalty kick goal and strong defense to upend No. 7 University of Arkansas by a narrow final score of 2-1. The tough effort netted Alabama (14-1-1, 7-0 SEC) its fifth win over a ranked opponent. 

The Razorbacks (10-3-1, 5-2 SEC) scored first, trying to take it to Alabama with the same relentless attack that the Crimson Tide meets opponents with. In the 17th minute, Ava Tankersley was able to swing the momentum into visitor territory. 

In the 25th minute, the Crimson Tide evened the score when defender Gessica Skorka sent one past Grace Barbara. Forward Gianna Paul, who got the start and never stopped pressuring the Razorbacks, was on the assist. 

The teams held strong defensively into the break, and it was still anybody’s match. 

In the second half, the Alabama defense rose up. Arkansas didn’t take the pressure off, and managed command of territory for a large portion of the half. Goalkeeper McKinley Crone cemented her win in the battle of the goalkeepers with five saves and a remarkable effort in the final 45 minutes. 

“I have to applaud the defense in front of me,” Crone said. “I couldn’t do my job without them making continuous plays. The biggest thing we talk about is just doing your job, and I had to step up in the moments that are called for.” 

Finally, with less than 10 minutes to play, forward Ashlynn Serepca drew a foul in the penalty box. She sent the ball in to give her team a lead it would not give up. 

“We knew that this game was going to be a battle,” Serepca said. “We have that mentality that we want to just play our game — all 90 minutes, every player battles, fights, competes, wins tackles, slides, whatever it is.” 

The goal was almost a sort of payoff for a defense that went toe-to-toe with a top-10 team and refused to give in. Crone and head coach Wes Hart both said they did not feel the defensive unit gets enough credit. The goal came in the 84th minute, without much time to spare. 

“These big games, they’re won and lost in the box,” Serepca said. 

Hart said Arkansas was probably his team’s toughest opponent so far. 

“[I’m] just super proud of the effort that our girls showed, and the resiliency, and the toughness we showed in that game,” Hart said. “We had to work for everything we got today.” 

He also said that he believes the group needed a test like Sunday’s.  

“These are the games that are going to get you ready for postseason play, and our goal is to go as deep as we can in postseason,” Hart said. “We need these types of games. You can’t replicate this in training.” 

Sunday’s victory now opens the door for the Crimson Tide to be ranked No. 1 nationally when rankings are released next week.  

“I’m just super happy for the players,” Hart said. “Some validation, some recognition — I think it’s important.”  

He further praised his players by saying he doesn’t believe his team is adversely affected by any pressure. 

“There is no complacency in this group whatsoever,” Hart said. 

Crone and Serepca both agreed that the ranking is not important until season’s end. 

“It’s just a ranking,” Crone said. “We’ve got to battle every single game, the teams we still have left on our schedule and our postseason, [it’s] not over until the very end of the season and the last whistle blows.” 

“That’s exactly right,” Serepca said. “You enter the SEC tournament, no one’s going to know in week eight, week nine, what your ranking was. We just want to prove to everyone that we deserve to be here. It isn’t a coincidence.” 

Alabama will go to Starkville, Mississippi, for a road match against a 10-win Mississippi State University team that is looking to rebound from a stretch of one win in four matches. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT Thursday on SEC Network+.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]