The Lady Lions kick off the 2022 season

Although their record may not have been the best in 2021, the UAPB women’s soccer team still competed in the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament for the second year in a row. It was also losing preseason all-conference selection and last season all-conference player Iyanah Hicks to a covid-stricken year and injuries.

The Lady Lions kick off the 2022 season Aug. 18 at Arkansas State University, hoping to leverage the tournament berth. Last season, the team’s top five scorers and assists leaders were all freshmen.

While a couple have come through the transfer portal, Lady Lions coach Erik Solberg is still excited to see what the sophomores can do this year.

“I think it was crucial for them to grow in that season last year,” Solberg said. “It was a tough year. We had a few injuries, a lot of covid issues last fall. We faced a lot of adversity but then for the spring I really felt we did a lot of progress and I look forward to these kids to play an important role and continue to lead this program and set a new standard.”

UAPB also faced a brutal non-conference schedule last year, playing the University of Memphis, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, as well as the University of Houston. The start of the season saw many tight heartbreaking defeats, none by more than two goals. Their shooting percentage was slightly higher than their opponents all season, another bright spot for the season.

During conference play for a season with so many questions, the team was close but just missing a few things.

“We need to allow fewer goals and finish more,” Solberg said. “I think that’s something that let us down a bit last year, and that’s where we showed our freshman youth. I’m not a huge stats or analytics guy, but I think it starts defensively. We need to be a bit more stingy in the goals we concede, and be more ruthless in attack, even from set pieces.”

A defensive goal or save in many conference games could have made the difference in the end result. After a good spring and tight results last fall, the Lady Lions have found room for improvement.

“We’re trying to do three consecutive conference tournaments for the first time, I think, in program history, or at least a decade,” Solberg said. “We and volleyball are the only ones to have back-to-back tournaments since Covid and that’s something we’re proud of. That’s always the goal and I challenge them at team meetings and ask if we can go beyond that.”

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