2019 KU Soccer Preview – The Defenders

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With the 2019 kickoff just a week away, KUAthletics.com sat down with Jayhawk head coach Mark Francis, to breakdown and preview each of his team’s position groups and the players set to take the field this season. This marks the third of four position-by-position previews for the upcoming season.

PREVIEWS: Forwards | Midfielders | Defenders | Goalkeepers

On the current 28-player roster, nine make up the backline contingency. Here is a breakdown of the defensive group:

Returnees (8): Senior Madison Meador, Senior Elise Reina, Senior Addisyn Merrick, Junior Addisyn Merrick, Sophomore Kaela Hansen, Sophomore Italia Bradley, Sophomore Grace Wiltgen, Redshirt-Freshman Chais Wright
Newcomers (1): Freshman Lia Beyer
Lost (1): Maya Swaby-Wallerson

The Rundown
There’s no doubt that the Jayhawks strength will revolve around the backline as the Jayhawks return every player from last season’s stellar defense. Kansas tallied nine shutouts and posted four opponent scoreless stretches of 240 minutes a year ago and expectations will be to surpass those numbers when the Jayhawks take the field in 2019.

The heart of the Jayhawk defense will be seniors Madison Meador, Addisyn Merrick and Elise Reina. The senior trio has been key pieces to the stellar KU backlines over the last two-plus seasons and brings experience and leadership that will be difficult for opponents to match. Junior Isabella Cavalcante and sophomore Kaela Hansen are also back after spending much of last season as defensive starters. Both also have extensive playing experience as they each earned starting positions during their respective freshmen seasons.

Sophomores Italia Bradley and Grace Wiltgen developed into key defensive pieces off the bench a year ago and have helped turn the Jayhawk defense into one of the deepest cores in the Big 12. Don’t be surprised if either break into the starting lineup at any point this year though, as each has made big strides during the offseason.

A freshmen duo round out the KU defense with redshirt-freshman Chais Wright back after an injury sidelined her in 2018. She’s joined by freshman Lia Beyer who joins the Jayhawks after an impressive club career in Denver. With Wright back to 100 percent and Beyer putting together a solid preseason, KU defense appears to have few cracks as it heads into the season opener in seven days.

Francis on the Defenders:

"You think about everyone that played significant minutes last year - not just the starters, but also the kids that rotated in - we didn’t graduate a single player, they’re all back. I think a lot of the girls, especially the young ones – Kaela (Hansen), Italia (Bradley), Grace (Wiltgen), Chais (Wright) – the younger ones from last year, have made a huge jump since then. So that just adds a lot of depth to the back line and a lot of choices as coaches. A lot of players returning but we also have a lot that have improved a ton so those spots will definitely be up for grabs. "

The position-by-position women’s soccer breakdown will conclude on Tuesday, Aug. 20 with the goalkeepers.


The Jayhawks will begin the 2019 regular-season on Thursday, August 22 when the Nebraska Cornhuskers come to Lawrence. Kickoff from Rock Chalk Park is slated for 7 p.m. KU will take the pitch for it’s one and only preseason exhibition on Friday, Aug. 16 to take on the Omaha Mavericks, also at 7 p.m.

Single-game tickets for the 2019 Kansas soccer season are now available for purchase. Tickets range from $8 for adults and $5 for seniors/youth. Season tickets are also still available for $50 and will provide general admission seating to all 10 of KU’s regular-season matches. For additional ticket information contact the Kansas Sales Team by calling 800-34-HAWKS or visit kuathletics.com/tickets.