Spring Soccer Continues with Pair of Games Saturday

April 11, 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. – After two weeks off from competition, the Kansas soccer team will return to spring action on Saturday, April 13 for two contests at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex. The Jayhawks will go up against South Dakota State at 10 a.m. and will later in the day to take on the Drake Bulldogs for a 2 p.m. kickoff. Both games are free to the public.

KU, which will be playing its first home matches of the spring, is 4-2 during its exhibition season. After dropping the opener to Nebraska, 3-2, the team managed to string four-straight wins together as it downed all of its international competition as part of KU’s European tour between March 18-22. The Jayhawks then returned to the States and played the new professional team, FC Kansas City. Despite lockdown defense in the final half of play, Kansas fell to the Blues 4-0.

Saturday’s games will be the team’s first action against NCAA squads since its first spring outing versus the Cornhuskers on March 1. The Kansas coaches are anxious to see how the team will compare to Division I level programs after playing a wide variety of competition-levels over the past month.

“I’m curious to see how the players handle playing college players again,” said head coach Mark Francis. “I think the diverse competition this spring has been really good for us. Going to Europe and having those extra days to train were really good. It allowed us more opportunities to go out there against different competition. It also allowed us to get a really good feel for what we need to work on and what’s getting better.”

One of the Jayhawks’ main emphases this spring has been on the defensive third. Of the Jayhawks’ eight losses in the fall of 2012, six came by just one goal. Francis and the rest of the KU staff know that next year’s squad could be a tough one to beat if it improves on the defensive side, but also know that several games will come down to how the team plays on the offensive side of the ball.

“One of our biggest focuses this spring has been not giving the other team as many scoring opportunities,” Francis continued. “You can do that but obviously if you don’t score you’re not going to win. We’ve definitely put more time into that so hopefully it will pay off for us.”

While the team has been spending the majority of its time working with the on-field improvements, the Jayhawks have also been heavily focused on the mental side of the game. Francis knows that with a few adjustments in how his players are approaching the game mentally, it could mean all the different on the scoreboard.

“The mentality has been really good this spring, which is what we’ve been talking about for the past few months,” Francis explained. “We’ve really been focusing on the `one more’ mindset. Are you doing just what you’re supposed to do or are you doing something extra? That’s what we’ve really been focusing on and have hammered into them this spring. They’ve been doing a good job with that.”

With only three weeks left in the spring season, opportunities to improve are becoming less before KU ends the exhibition schedule at the end of April. The Jayhawks are hoping to take full advantage of their last outings and break for summer feeling confident about next season’s squad. Their final push will begin this Saturday with the pair of home matches.

“The girls have been working really hard,” concluded Francis. “We’ve definitely made a lot of progress. We have three weekends left and then the spring is over so we’re hoping to finish this on a good note.”

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