Kansas Soccer Ranked No. 23 in NSCAA/adidas Preseason Poll
Aug. 16, 2005
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
The University of Kansas soccer team is ranked No. 23 in the NSCAA/adidas preseason poll released on Tuesday. The Jayhawks enter the 2005 campaign as the defending Big 12 Conference champions after an 18-5 season. KU opens the 2005 campaign this Saturday, Aug. 20 with an exhibition match against Drake at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex. Opening kick off is set for 1 p.m.
2005 SEASON PREVIEW
After losing seven seniors from its 2004 Big 12 Championship squad, the Kansas soccer team is looking for new faces to step into the lineup. The success of the 2005 KU season will depend on how the newcomers mix with the talented group of Jayhawks who return from last year’s championship team.
“I can see a lot of freshmen coming in and making an impact right away,” head coach Mark Francis said. “Because we graduated such a big group, we’re looking for them to come in and fill some of those voids. All six of them have the ability to challenge the people that are returning.”
The six freshmen who will be making their way to the Jayhawk Soccer Complex include two high school All-Americans in Julie Hanley and Jessica Bush. They will join Kristin Graves, Sara Rogers, Jenny Murtaugh and Missy Geha – the 2005 Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year for the state of Kansas – as the incoming freshmen class in 2005.
Though the team is gaining a lot of youth, plenty of offensive punch remains and it all starts with KU’s all-time leading scorer and one of the nation’s top scoring threats in senior Caroline Smith. In 2004, the Edina, Minn., native scored 11 goals paired with 10 assists to add to her program-leading 100 career points. A two-time All-American and All-Big 12 First Team selection, Smith will be heavily relied on as KU lost 47 percent of its offensive production from last year.
Joining Smith up top will be the talented core of seniors Kimberly Karfonta, Jessica Smith and Nicole Braman. Both of Braman’s tallies last season were game-winners against No. 7 Clemson and conference rival Missouri.
Jessica Smith has played in 63 matches over the course of her career and was named team captain heading into the upcoming season. Karfonta has seen time in 61 matches during her career. She has recorded four career goals and dished out three assists.
Junior Lacey Novak and sophomore transfer Jenifer Thomas, along with some of the incoming freshmen could see time at forward in the fall. Novak has one career goal, the game-winner against Missouri in 2003. Thomas joined KU after one year at Texas Tech where she started all 19 matches and tallied four goals.
The Jayhawk midfield will have a new look in 2005 as junior Nicole Cauzillo is the lone returning midfielder to start last year. Juniors Michelle Rasmussen and Novak will work with sophomore Emily Strinden and the incoming freshmen to give the midfield a new personality.
Cauzillo was named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer team in 2004 and was picked to represent KU at the 2005 NCAA Leadership Conference. After transferring to KU from West Virginia before last season, the junior posted four goals and was third on the team with six assists.
Rasmussen was limited by injury last season but has started nine matches in her two seasons in a Jayhawk uniform. Strinden saw action in 11 games as a freshman last year.
Junior Holly Gault, an All-American and Big 12 First Team selection last year, will anchor a revamped defensive unit. Though a strong and physical defender, Gault is not afraid to press up into the attack. She scored four goals last year, including a diving header in double-overtime to beat Auburn. The Spring Hill, Kan., native dished out five assists and was tied for fourth on the team with 13 points last year.
“The good thing is, we have a lot of options,” Francis, the reigning Big 12 Coach of the Year, said. “We don’t know who’s going to play center back. It’s going to be who steps up and identifies themselves as the next center back or marking back.”
Juniors Nikki Alvarez and Danika Erickson will compete with sophomores Afton Sauer and Kelsey Archuleta for playing time. All are proven defenders from a squad that allowed only 13 goals and shutout 11 opponents last year.
Though everyone on defense saw action in 2004, they did not have much chance to play with each other for extended periods of time. They will quickly have to become a cohesive unit for Kansas to mature into a strong defensive team.
“It’s really going to depend on how quickly the team meshes and the new kids assimilate to the scheme we play and speed of play,” Francis said. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s really up for grabs.”
The battle to replace departed four-year starter Meghan Miller will be a highly contested one. Senior Erin Ferguson, sophomore Colleen Quinn and freshman Julie Hanley are all vying for the starting role.
Ferguson and Quinn each saw action in two matches last season for a combined time of 66 minutes and 56 seconds. Now a senior, Ferguson transferred to KU from the University of Houston before the 2004 campaign.
Hanley enters her first season at KU after a successful four-year run at North Central High in Indianapolis, Ind. She was twice named all-state first team and led her squad to national rankings in 2003 and 2004.
The 2005 slate includes eight matches against 2004 NCAA Tournament participants and a school-record 12 home contests.
KU opens the 2005 season with an Aug. 20 exhibition match against Drake, the 2004 Missouri Valley Conference regular season champions. The Jayhawks will play their first four regular season matches at home. KU opens the regular season against Michigan on Aug. 26 then faces Wisconsin on Aug. 28 at the Jayhwak Soccer Complex. Both the Wolverines and Badgers were NCAA Tournament teams in 2004.
After matches against Missouri State and Arkansas, Kansas will travel to San Diego, Calif., for two tough contests. Pepperdine and San Diego are coming off NCAA Tournament appearances and each compete in the competitive West Coast Conference.
KU will open its Big 12 schedule at Baylor on Sept. 23. The Jayhawks will return to Lawrence for their conference home opener against Texas A&M on Sept. 25, a match up that pits last year’s conference co-champions.
The regular season will conclude with three straight home matches against Colorado College (Oct. 21), Texas (Oct. 23) and Missouri. The Border Showdown against the Tigers will take place on Oct. 28.
“The conference is going to be tough again,” Francis said. “Anytime you win a championship, your goal has got to be to win it again. I think we have the potential to challenge to win it again. Now we have to set that as a goal. Outside of that, obviously making the NCAA tournament, but then advancing farther than we did last year.”