KU Soccer Falls Just Short of NCAA Tournament

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Nov. 10, 2006


For the second-straight season, the University of Kansas soccer team won 11 matches and placed near the top of the Big 12 standings. However, for the second-straight year, the team was eliminated in the first round of the conference tournament and subsequently, missed the NCAA Tournament.

After falling to Colorado in the final match of the regular season, the Jayhawks faced CU again in the first round of the Big 12 Championships. Jessica Bush’s goal late in the first half tied the score at 1-1. The teams played through the second half and two overtime periods before the Buffaloes ended KU’s season in a shootout.

While the end of the season was disappointing for head coach Mark Francis and his young Jayhawks, it should not overshadow what the team accomplished during the 2006 season.

Fielding one of the youngest teams in the Big 12 Conference, Francis’ team went 11-7-1, marking the sixth-straight season that the team has reached double-digits in victories. The Jayhawks finished fourth in league play, with a 6-4 mark against the Big 12. The team earned shutouts in all six of its conference victories and eight shutouts overall.

The team opened the season with a thorough beating of Furman at home. Senior Lacey Novak, sophomore Sara Rogers and freshman Monica Dolinsky all recorded goals in the match, while the KU defense held Furman to just five shots.

Following a 1-0 loss to No. 10 California, the Jayhawks’ offense got back on track with a 4-2 victory over St. Mary’s. After a sluggish first half, KU scored three goals in a 10-minute span as Dolinsky and seniors Michelle Rasmussen and Holly Gault entered the act.

The following weekend, KU knocked off Alabama in overtime on an Emily Strinden goal and upset 12th-ranked Duke in one of the most memorable contests in KU soccer history. The Jayhawks rallied twice from two-goal deficits in the second half to score a 4-3 triumph.

Gault tallied two goals in the second half to bring KU back. Trailing 3-2 in the final 10 minutes, Dolinsky collected a Kim Boyer pass to tie the match with her fourth goal of the season. Eight minutes later, another freshman, Shannon McCabe, recorded her first collegiate goal in the nick of time to give KU the 4-3 win.

The win propelled the team to 4-1 on the young season and a No. 18 ranking in the Soccer Times national poll. The team was also ranked 20th in the Soccer America poll.
However, the honeymoon was short-lived. After taking a 1-0 lead into the halftime break against Pepperdine the following Friday, KU fell apart in the second half. The Waves scored three times in the half to become the first visitor to win at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex in almost a year.

The team rebounded with a business-like 2-0 win over UCF two days later. Sophomore Jessica Bush scored her first of what would be a team-leading eight goals and also set up Gault’s fourth goal of the season.

The shutout would be the first of 11 straight matches where KU would hold its opponents to one goal or less. Senior Nikki Alvarez, junior Afton Sauer, sophomore Jenny Murtaugh and freshman Estelle Johnson proved to be nearly impenetrable, while goalkeeper Julie Hanley came up with the big saves when they were needed.

After a heart-breaking defeat to open Big 12 play at Oklahoma State, KU rallied for a 1-0 victory at Oklahoma on Sept. 24. Early in the second half, Bush knocked home a McCabe pass for the game-winner.

The following weekend, KU earned another big win on the road, taking down Nebraska 1-0. The win was the Jayhawks’ second all-time in Lincoln and first over the Huskers since 2003. McCabe again came up clutch, burying a Dolinsky corner kick in the second minute. The defense did the rest, holding NU scoreless despite facing a relentless attack.

The team dropped a pair of 1-0 decisions to No. 18 Texas and No. 8 Texas A&M the following weekend. It marked the first time since the 2001 season that the team lost back-to-back matches at home. The Texas A&M loss was especially painful for KU. The team outshot the eighth-ranked team in the country 13-2 in the second half, but could not score.

With their season on the brink at 7-6, the Jayhawks responded with its best run in two years. KU shut out four straight Big 12 opponents to clinch fourth-place in the league. The first win was at Iowa State in a game both teams needed to win. Playing in winter-like conditions, Bush scored her third goal of the season by knocking in her own rebound in the 15th minute. Later in the half, McCabe scored her third of the season for the margin of victory.

Margin of victory was something perhaps nobody could have predicted in KU’s next match. Bush and Dolinsky each tallied two goals, while the latter also had two assists as the Jayhawks routed archrival Missouri, 4-0. Dolinsky became just the third player in KU history to enjoy a six-point match.

The pair of victories helped a trio of Jayhawks sweep the Big 12 Player of the Week awards. This marked the first time that three athletes from the same school earned the conference’s weekly honors. Bush earned Offensive Player of the Week, while Hanley took home Defensive Player of the Week honors. Dolinsky was named Newcomer of the Week.

The Jayhawks continued to roll the next weekend, taking down Baylor and Texas Tech for their tenth and 11th wins of the season. In what proved to be her final home weekend at KU, Gault brought her best. The 5-foot-6 senior had a hand in all four of KU’s goals over the weekend, scoring the game-winner against Texas Tech and recording three assists.

The prolific weekend was the final exclamation point for Gault, who was one of the most decorated members of the team.

The senior was one of four players to earn All-Big 12 Second Team honors and one of 11 Jayhawks honored on the Academic All-Big 12 team. She also garnered Academic All-District 7 First Team honors from ESPN the Magazine.

The Big 12 honored Gault along with Bush, Geha and Murtaugh on the All-Big 12 Second Team. It marked the first time in two years that the Jayhawks had more four or more all-conference selections.

Joining Gault on the All-District team was junior Nicole Cauzillo, who was selected to the Second Team. Alvarez, a fellow senior, was selected to her third-straight Academic All-Big 12 team, while Gault, Rasmussen, Cauzillo and Strinden all earned selection to their second straight. Sophomore Kristin Graves, Rogers, Murtaugh, Geha, Hanley and junior Sauer were named to the Academic All-Conference team for the first time.