All-Time Best

Podojil has records in sight

By Andrew Joseph

2022-09-21T07:00:00.0000000Z

2022-09-21T07:00:00.0000000Z

WEHCO Media

https://hawgsillustrated.pressreader.com/article/281517934978267

SOCCER

Arkansas senior Anna Podojil is chasing history faster than the opposing defenders trying to contain her elite speed. Arkansas senior Anna Podojil is chasing history faster than the opposing defenders trying to contain her elite speed. Her commitment to the Razorbacks in 2018 and the rise of Arkansas’ soccer program seemingly go hand in hand. She joined a program that never finished higher than third in the SEC West in seven seasons under coach Colby Hale. Since Podojil’s introduction to the starting lineup, the Razorbacks have won three consecutive regular-season titles and never lost more than one conference match per season. Podojil has exceeded all the otherworldly expectations that followed her from the glory days at Indian Hill High School in Cincinnati. She was honored as the 2017 Ohio female soccer player of the year after winning back-to-back state championships. Top Drawer Soccer rated her as the No. 35 recruit in the nation after breaking the school’s scoring record with 112 goals. Four years later, she finds herself in a similar situation with the Razorbacks. In the 72nd minute against Grand Canyon on Sept. 11, Podojil received a pass, raced past the defense and slotted the ball into the lower left corner of the net for her second goal of the game. It was the seventh brace of her career and a scene that has become regular viewing for Arkansas fans. The goal tied former Razorback Parker Goins for the top spot on the program’s all- time points list with 107 points. Podojil’s 41 career goals are three shy of surpassing Julie Williford as the top goalscorer in Arkansas history. “It would be amazing to break those records,” Podojil said. “Honestly, I had no idea I even tied (Goins) until my teammate told me.” Williford’s reign as the points leader lasted from 2003 until Goins overtook her in 2021. Despite Goins’ short term atop the leaderboard, she doesn’t foresee anybody matching Podojil’s production anytime soon. “I think (Podojil) is going to eventually own those records for a very, very long time,” said Goins, who played three seasons with Podojil. “I’m so proud of her. She’s one of the best goalscoring players that I’ve ever seen. She works so hard and is so deserving.” Arkansas was not a top-tier program during Podojil’s recruitment, but ties to Northwest Arkansas and a desire to play right away helped her call the Hogs. Dan and Rebecca Podojil raised their two daughters, Anna and Ellie, in Bentonville before moving to Ohio in 2012. “During the recruiting process, I knew I wanted to go to a school where I could have a really big impact,” Podojil said. “Arkansas was definitely at the top of my list just because they weren’t very good. I think it just means so much more that I’ve been a part of the team the last four years to see the program continue to get better.” As the Razorbacks continued to gain national prominence, the spotlight shined brightest on their speedy attacker. In her first collegiate season, Podojil started all 23 matches and was named the SEC freshman of the year. That was the beginning of a storybook career that has yet to conclude. In her sophomore year, she became Arkansas’ first-ever SEC Forward of the Year and followed that by becoming the only Razorback to be named a United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American in 2021. Ellie Podojil, Anna’s younger sister, is a junior on the Arkansas soccer team. She has seen firsthand the work that her sister has put in behind the scenes.She credits the healthy competitiveness between the two of them as a reason for their athletic success. “I’ll always remember us playing one- on-one out in the front yard…those would get really competitive and almost aggressive,” Ellie Podojil said. The Podojils started soccer when Anna was around 8 years old but did not play on a select-level team until a few years afterward. With the two being so close in age, their parents often signed them up together for various sports and activities. “If one of us did something, the other one had to do it,” Ellie Podojil said. “Soccer wasn’t much of a choice for me. I had to join because (Anna) wanted to play, but I am extremely grateful that I’ve got to experience all of this with her.” There has certainly been no shortage of experiences and achievements shared by the Podojil sisters who both committed to the Razorbacks as top-100 recruits, according to the IMG Academy Top 150. “Anna has been setting records ever since I can remember,” Ellie Podojil said. “I think the coolest part about it is that she is so humble about it. Honestly, I think that people who know Anna outside of soccer would never know that she is breaking all these records and is on the MAC Hermann Award list because she doesn’t talk about it.” Despite her laundry list of accolades, Anna Podojil refuses to credit herself for any of the success. Instead, she lists two things that she believes are instrumental in her development: innate athleticism inherited from her parents and the competitive nature of the Arkansas squad. “The competitive vibe that we bring every day to practice pushes every single player on our team to their limits,” Podojil said. “With an elite athlete like myself, I really need that atmosphere and I’m so lucky I get it here.” Her parents were standout track athletes at Miami (Ohio). The track speed is evident in Podojil as she separates from defenders with relative ease. Hale couldn’t ask for a forward more tailormade for his team’s rapid pressing and counterattacking style of play as Podojil. He raved about the senior’s quickness and her ability to leave opposing backlines in the dust . “She’s lightning fast,” Hale said. “She could probably have gotten some points in the SEC in the 400 meters (race).” Podojil’s athleticism makes her a difficult mark for any centerback. However, it is her relentless work ethic and rugged determination that makes her nearly impossible to cover. “I loved playing with her,” Goins said. “She was a player who you knew you were always going to get the best out of.” Podojil has the chance to follow in Goins’ footsteps by becoming Arkansas’ points leader and then joining the professional ranks. She is not certain that she is ready to dive into a pro career. She has an additional year of eligibility remaining due to the bonus covid-19 year for athletes who competed in 2020. “These past three or four years have been the most fun time of my life,” Podojil said. “It’s been so awesome playing at a school where the college athletics are the main focus of the state.” The Razorbacks have plenty of remaining matches for Podojil to make history. She might stick around for an additional season that could point the scoring records out of reach. “Right now, I’m planning on taking another year at Arkansas,” Podojil said. “I just want to keep breaking records here and leave a good impact on the program. I want to leave here being a great soccer player and an even better person.”

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