As a sports fan, I love it when fall kicks into gear. Many sports teams around the state hit the field again for exciting seasons. With a mix of larger university teams and smaller colleges competing, nearly everyone in Arkansas can find a sport they enjoy. Read on for just a sample of the fall sports on offer for fans and players alike.
Photo Credit: Amy Mitchell
Football is a force in itself in the fall and the Razorbacks lead the way this year as head coach Bret Bielema returns for his fifth year. When the Hogs take the field on Aug. 31, fans will be watching to see how they perform. Of course, the Razorbacks aren’t the only football team in the state. The Arkansas State Red Wolves are looking to improve upon the 2016 season, which started off shakily but ended with a win over the University of Central Florida in the Cure Bowl. Fans can catch the first home game Sept. 9. You can find plenty of opportunities to watch football this fall, including the UCA Bears, the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys, the Harding Bisons and the Southern Arkansas Muleriders.
On the women’s side, volleyball is one of the most anticipated fall sports, and there are plenty of teams to watch. The University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions look to improve on their 9-15 season from 2016 and return quite a few starters. The Little Rock Trojans are picked to finish 4th in the Sun Belt West division this year. The UA-Ft.Smith Lady Lions are the team to watch, though. Even after losing all its starters from the 2016 season, they are heavily favored to win the Heartland Conference. The Lions have won the last five regular conference seasons and the last six conference tournament titles. They begin their title defense Sept. 1.
Fall is the time of year to catch university soccer games and in Arkansas, women’s soccer dominates the field. The University of Arkansas Razorback soccer team has seen unprecedented success since the arrival of head coach Colby Hale in 2012. Last year the Razorbacks had a historic season, going 18-5-1 and narrowly missing the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. They beat #2 Duke and #4 Florida along the way, both in Fayetteville. This year, the team looks to return to the NCAA tournament and enters the season ranked nationally. Their first challenge will be against #1 Penn State in Fayetteville. Arkansas State also fields a women’s team in the tough Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves beat Missouri State in its opener and hope to return to the Sun Belt Conference tournament for the second year in a row.
Cross country is an exciting sport to watch but one that takes some advanced planning as most schools only host one home meet during the season. The Razorbacks head into this season ready to defend Southeastern Conference titles on the men’s and women’s sides. You can watch the runners race at the infamous Chile Pepper Festival on Sept. 30 in Fayetteville. Fans can watch many of central Arkansas’s elite runners at several cross country invitationals. The UCA XC Challenge is in Conway on Sept. 9, and looks to field teams from Little Rock University, the University of Central Arkansas, and Arkansas Tech. The Lois Davis Invitational takes place at Southern Arkansas University Oct. 7 for college teams and Oct. 8 for area high schools runners. An open race on the 7th allows any runner to participate.
Swimming and Diving
Fall might be a strange time to think about swimming, but while summer swimming is over for most of us, competition for the swimming and diving teams at the University of Arkansas and UALR is just beginning. The Razorbacks host three home meets this year: Sept. 16, Nov. 3 and Jan. 13. The Little Rock Trojans will host four home meets this year: Oct. 14 and 21st, and Jan. 13 and 27th.
Spencer Brown/Lyon College Basketball. Photo courtesy of Allyson Dyer
Basketball is usually thought of as a winter sport, but athletes hit the court as soon as school starts and seasons begin in early November. There are so many college teams around the state to watch. You can catch the following teams in action: Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys and Golden Suns, Hendrix Warriors, Lyon Scots, Southern Arkansas Muleriders, Central Arkansas Bears, UA Pine Bluff Lions, Little Rock Trojans, John Brown Eagles, and of course, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Looking for Something Different, You Say?
Look no further than Southern Arkansas University, where the Muleriders aren’t actually riding mules, but they are competing on horses. The SAU Rodeo team is one of the few collegiate teams in the state for rodeo. They compete in the Ozark division of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, along with the rodeo team from UA-Monticello. These student-athletes compete in calf-roping, team roping, steer wrestling, goat tying, barrel racing and more. You can watch the excitement at SAU’s home rodeo event in November.
If you’re looking for athletes on broomsticks instead of horses, trying watching a Quidditch match. That’s right. The Harry Potter inspired sport is thriving as a club sport at universities around the country. The University of Arkansas Quidditch Club has competed in the United States Quidditch Organization since 2010. The team has even traveled to the World Cup. Teams are co-ed and the competition is anything but magical. Quidditch has evolved into a tough sport with tackling, sprinting, passing and throwing at its core. It all just happens to take place with a modified broom stick. Intrigued? Follow the Arkansas Quidditch Club on Facebook for updates on their fall schedule.
Photo Credit: Arkansas Rugby Club
Rugby is a sport that’s gained traction in Arkansas in the last few years. Both the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University have men’s and women’s club rugby teams that compete throughout the year. The Little Rock Rugby Club will host the 44th Annual Ozark Tournament Nov. 11-12th. This Arkansas club has teams that compete at all levels, from youth through adult.
No matter what fall sports you choose to follow, Arkansas has plenty on offer. Get out and enjoy the fall weather and the sport of your choice in the natural state.