Union Graduates Leading Razorback Soccer
By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
Parker Goins, Taylor Malham and Haley VanFossen dominated 6A girls soccer while leading Union to three straight state championships from 2015-17. Today, the trio is making the best of their senior year two hours east at the University of Arkansas.
As of mid-October, the Razorbacks are 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country by the United Soccer Coaches poll. Goins has scored two goals on the year, coming in games against LSU and Texas A&M. The latter got her SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Malham got a goal against Kentucky and VanFossen was credited with an assist against LSU.
The star Union alums are surprised their senior year has come so fast.
“It’s insane,” said VanFossen, a 5-10, defender. “It has totally flown by in a blink of an eye. I’ve had a really great time here.”
“It’s crazy,” said Malham, a 5-10 forward. “These years have flown by. I wish we could go back honestly. It’s going to be bittersweet when it’s over, but the ride has been incredible.”
“It doesn’t seem real,” said Goins, a 5-10 forward who overcame an ACL injury her sophomore year. “Each year goes by faster and faster. This year has been cut short (by COVID-19) and even it is going by faster. So it’s crazy.”
The trio have been best friends for a long time through playing club soccer and their time together at Union. Being at Arkansas has brought them even closer. They were in the same dorm room as freshmen and are now living together.
Goins, Malham and VanFossen enjoy having other Tulsa talent for teammates as well. There is fellow signee and Jenks product Nayoli Perez, another longtime friend through playing club soccer together and as opponents in high school. There is also sophomore 5-11 midfielder Ashton Gordon of Booker T. Washington.
Loss of a Mentor
The trio were dealt heavy hearts last winter when they heard the news of their high school coach, Brian Elliott, passing away as a result of suffering a heart attack.
“I remember the day I found out. It was really something that we couldn’t believe,” Malham said.
“It’s something you never want to hear,” VanFossen said. “We didn’t believe it was true. It was kind of like a rumor at first. When it was confirmed, it was just devastating for us.”
“I actually texted him the day before and I was asking for some stats,” Goins said. “We had a nice conversation. Then the next day, I texted him, just wondering and following up. He didn’t respond. Then I got a call like 10 minutes later being told he passed away. It just didn’t seem real. So that made it even harder to hear the news.”
Elliot was an inspirational coach, the former Union standouts said.
“He was always someone you could count on to be reassuring,” VanFossen said. “I’ll never forget coach Elliott for sure.”
“It was really nice getting to go back home for the funeral and get to see everyone whom he impacted, because he impacted a lot of people in this life,” Malham said. “He was very influential and a very Godly person who left his mark here.”
“I think he was a great mentor for me and for many others,” Goins said. “He was someone you could always go to and talk to about anything.”
Persevering Through The Pandemic
The season has been shortened by COVID-19. They’ve had to deal with adjustments from having campus closed last spring, taking classes online, to facing questions if there would be a season.
“At first, it was a little stressful because we didn’t know if we were going to even get to play any games,” Goins said. “It was definitely hard because sometimes it felt like we were practicing for nothing.”
The SEC, as well as other conferences, eventually settled for a schedule with league games.
“Getting a chance to play, even if it is only eight conference games, is really exciting,” Goins said. “There is only one game per week, so we are able to save our legs a little bit and prepare for each game each week.”
The Razorbacks are playing a schedule against all six teams within their division, the SEC West and two from the SEC East.
“It’s been crazy,” Malham said. “It’s been everything but normal. But I think our team has done a really good job of handling the entire situation, as well as our coaching staff.”
Masks are required of the players when on the sidelines, but not when playing on the pitch.
“If you were to ask me a year ago if this would be where we’re at now, I would say you are crazy,” VanFossen said. “I’m thankful we’re getting this opportunity to play though, I feel like we’ve done pretty well given the circumstances.”
As of mid-October, Arkansas was leading the SEC West with wins over LSU (2-0), at Kentucky (4-1), Texas A&M (2-1) and at Alabama (2-1 [OT]). It was prepping for a key game at home against SEC East leading South Carolina on Oct. 16. Through the remainder of the month, the Razorbacks played at Ole’ Miss (Oct. 25), and at home vs. Auburn (Oct. 30). They are scheduled to play at Mississippi State (Nov. 6) before starting SEC Tournament play Nov. 13 in Orange Beach, Ala.
If there is a chance to play professional soccer, Goins, Malham and VanFossen plan to take advantage. If not, they have post-college career plans set. Goins plans to go into nursing or physical therapy, Malham and VanFossen will be graduating with degrees respectively in kinesiology and journalism.
Beating No. 1 North Carolina and winning the SEC regular season title last year are their favorite moments so far. They would like nothing better than to do it again and more before their Arkansas careers come to a close.