2020 KU Soccer Preview – The Defenders

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With the 2020 kickoff on tap this week, 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 (6): Junior Kaela Hansen, Junior Italia Bradley, Junior Grace Wiltgen, Sophomore Chais Wright, Sophomore Lia Beyer, Sophomore Ellie Prybylski,
Newcomers (5): Freshman Mackenzie Boeve, Freshman Kate Dreyer, Freshman Lexy Farrington, Freshman Moira Kelley, Freshman Morgan Thomas
Lost (4): Madison Meador, Elise Reina, Addisyn Merrick, Isabella Cavalcante

The Rundown
There will be big shoes to fill in this season’s defense unit as the Jayhawks will have to replace some large holes from last year’s squad that boasted one of the top backlines in the nation. Kansas tallied 12 shutouts and posted four opponent scoreless stretches of 240 minutes a year ago and that same defensive prowess will be vital to a successful 2020 Jayhawk campaign.

The heart of the Jayhawk defense will be Kaela Hansen. The junior has been a key piece to the stellar KU backlines over the last two seasons and brings experience and leadership that will be difficult for opponents to match. Junior Grace Wiltgen and sophomore Ellie Prybylski are also back after spending much of last season as defensive starters. Both also have extensive playing experience as they each earned starting positions last season.

Junior Italia Bradley and sophomore Chais Wright have both developed into key defensive pieces 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 strong group of incoming freshmen rounds out the Jayhawk backline. Local products Lexy Farrington and Moira Kelley along with Nebraska native Mackenzie Boeve and Oklahoman Kate Dreyer are all capable of breaking into the rotation at any point and have impressed the Jayhawk coaches throughout the preseason.  With their addition, the KU defense appears to have few cracks as it heads into the season opener later this week.

Francis on the Defenders:

"Coming off of last year, we had 12 shutouts, we were tough to score against but we obviously lost some people from that line-up ... So there's obviously going to have to be some new people that fill those roles. We also have a lot of ability in our freshman group and I think there are probably going to be a lot of new faces challenging for starting spots."

The position-by-position women’s soccer breakdown will conclude on Thursday, Sept. 10 with the goalkeepers.


The Jayhawks will begin the 2020 season on Friday, September 11 when they travel to Austin, Texas to take on the Texas Longhorns in a 7 p.m. (CT) kickoff. KU will return to Lawrence a week later for its home opener on Friday, Sept. 18, and will welcome the Oklahoma Sooners to Rock Chalk Park.