Jayhawk Insider: Wichita roots paying off for KU Soccer duo on and off the field
By Mitch George
Junior forward Katie McClure was locked in a sprint toward the attacking third of the field, narrowly flanked by a South Dakota State defender. Within a split second, fellow forward Grace Hagan knew her teammate had the defender beat. The senior sharply threaded the ball past the opposition and into the open space ahead of McClure, allowing her to further take advantage of her speed. With five feet of separation between her and the defender, the Wichita-native punched the ball past the Jackrabbit goaltender, crediting her with her second goal of the season and Hagan with her first assist of 2018.
The synchrony with which the play was executed turned heads, however it was not a sequence the duo is unfamiliar with.
“She’s so quick against defenders,” said Hagan, who also hails from Wichita. “When she gets that first turn on you, you’re kind of done, and I think defenders recognize that.”
Although they both currently don the Crimson and Blue, Hagan and McClure’s history dates back to the time they spent growing up in the same city. They first met when Hagan was 10 years old because their older brothers played baseball together. When they got tired of watching, according to Hagan, the two elementary schoolers would run off to the playground together until the game was completed.
They wouldn’t meet on the soccer pitch until they reached high school, with McClure playing for Maize High School and Hagan for Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School. In addition to playing together at Rock Chalk Park, Hagan and McClure are also teammates during the summer with FC Wichita. The two upperclassmen had class together in the spring, which Hagan says brought them even closer together.
With it being Hagan’s last year with the team, McClure says that she is determined to make it a memorable one.
“I’m playing for her every day, just as I’m playing for my other teammates, but I’m trying to make her last season a good season,” the junior said.
The tandem from south-central Kansas has filled the starting forward positions in each of the Jayhawks’ first two matches. In those matchups, they have combined for two goals and two assists. This season, they were also voted by their peers to represent the team as two of the four total captains.
When asked what she respects most about her fellow forward, McClure responded, “her work ethic. She works hard all the time… I can always trust in her whatever ball she’s playing. Her work ethic makes me want to raise my work ethic a little more and push me a little harder every day.”
Hoping to end their time together as one of the top tandems in program history, Hagan and McClure have already put combined for 27 goals and 15 assists since as Jayhawk teammates. But it’s the work they do when they’re not on the attack that their coach says makes them a truly effective duo.
“You won’t find two forwards that work harder defensively,” head coach Mark Francis said of them. “When we lose the ball, they make it very difficult for the opponent to get out because they do such a good job immediately pressuring the ball, and they’re very relentless.”
The pair share a connection off the field, but the connection they share on the pitch is one Jayhawk soccer fans should accustomed to hearing this season: Hagan to McClure, and McClure to Hagan.
“Coming to KU has been a dream for both of us, so to be here and to be able to play together and to represent Wichita is a great feeling,” Hagan said.
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