RCW: Sport Spotlight 4.3 (Soccer)
52′ GOOOOAAAALLL!!!!!! Katie McClure slots it home after beating the keeper. KU up 1-0! pic.twitter.com/zzozi8QYXY
— Kansas Soccer (@KUWSoccer) September 9, 2017
A post shared by Kansas Women’s Soccer (@kansassoccer) on Sep 10, 2017 at 8:18am PDT
Before Kansas soccer even hit the pitch for its first match of the season, the Jayhawks knew they would be in for a gauntlet of a schedule. The 2017 schedule featured 10 teams that competed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, which included both squads that played in the national final. In the preseason, many pundits dubbed Kansas’ slate as one of the toughest in the nation, and that forecast has no doubt come true.
The Jayhawks, sitting at 5-2-1 after their first eight games of the season, have played or will play nine teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the most recent United Soccer Coaches’ top-25 poll. This number includes Utah (No. 25) and BYU (receiving votes), both squads Kansas will face this upcoming weekend.
“This schedule is really going to do a good job preparing our players, especially our young players, of what the top level of NCAA DI soccer looks like,” said head coach Mark Francis prior to the season.
The Jayhawks have already played three top-25 teams over the first four weeks of the season, which included a match against the defending NCAA Champion, No. 7 USC, a 2-1 Kansas victory. It appears as though KU will face several more battles with top-25 teams this season as Big 12 Conference play looms. The conference currently features four teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the Coaches’ poll and that includes No. 6 West Virginia, No. 14 Oklahoma State and No. 21 Texas. The Big 12’s winning percentage, 67.1 percent, after the first eight weeks of the season ranks fifth out of the 31 DI conferences.
“The big change in the Big 12 over the last couple of years is that that bottom of the conference has moved up to where now, in any game anybody can beat you,” Francis said. “So the nonconference schedule is definitely going to be tough, but I think in the long run it will help us out when we get ready to play in conference.”
Kansas begins a stretch of five-straight games away from Rock Chalk Park this weekend when the team jets to Utah for a pair of games. KU will start the weekend at No. 25 Utah on Sept. 15 in Salt Lake City, before taking on the BYU Cougars on Sept. 18 in Provo.