Jayhawks host Golden Gophers to kick off 2016
UPDATE: With thunderstorms expected to move into the Lawrence area this evening, Kansas officials have elected to move the start of today’s Kansas-Minnesota soccer match to 4 p.m. Public gates to Rock Chalk Park will now open at 3 p.m. The match will still be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and ESPN3.
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas will begin its 22nd season of women’s soccer when the Jayhawks kickoff the 2016 regular season against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday, Aug. 19 inside Rock Chalk Park. The Jayhawks return eight starters and 15 letterwinners from last year’s squad that advanced to the Big 12 Tournament Championship match. Action from Lawrence is set to begin at 4 p.m., on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and ESPN3.
About the Jayhawks
The Kansas Jayhawks return 15 letterwinners and eight starters from the 2015 squad which went 10-9-2, finished sixth in the Big 12 and made the program’s first appearance in the conference tournament championship game. Mark Francis is entering his 18th season at the helm in Lawrence and holds a 188-142-24 record with the Jayhawks and is second among active Big 12 coaches with 212 career coaching victories.
The Jayhawk offense will be looking to fill the void left by outgoing seniors Liana Salazar and Ashley Williams, who combined for 49 goals during their respective careers, which included 31 over the last two seasons. Sophomore Grace Hagan is Kansas’ top returning scorer after tallying four goals and three assists during her freshman campaign. The 2016 KU roster features six other players who tallied a goal and/or an assist last season.
The KU defense is again expected to be stout this year, with the return of four two-year starters as well as several talented reserves. Over the last two seasons the Jayhawks are boasting a goals-against average of 1.03 and have held opponents to 12.3 shots per game during that span. Kansas will once again carry three keepers on the 2016 roster and all seem fit for the starting role. Junior Maddie Dobyns was the regular starter for the Jayhawks last season and will be joined by sophomore Lauren Breshears and redshirt freshman Regan Gibbs.
About the Golden Gophers
The 2016 Minnesota squad will open its season coming off a successful 2015 campaign were it finished with its best record in five years (11-7-3) and advanced to the NCAA Championships Round of 32. The Gophers return 18 letterwinners and eight starters from that team, including seniors Rashida Beal, Simone Kolander and Josee Stiever, who were each named to the Big Ten preseason list.
The Golden Gophers return the bulk of their personnel that helped them to a strong season on the offensive side of the ball. Last year, UM scored 1.73 goals per game and managed to put 51 of their total shots on frame. Kolander led the team with her 10 goals and 53 shots. Sophomore April Bockin was tops on the squad in assists with for helpers in 2015.
Minnesota was also stout on the defensive side of the ball a year ago, allowing less than one goal per game (0.84 GAA) and held opponents to less than 10 shots per match. The Gophers also shutout 10 of their opponents last year, which included five of their first six opponents. In goal, senior Tarah Hobbs is again expected to be Minnesota’s No. 1 keeper. Last year, Hobbs started all 22 matches and amassed 76 saves, stopped over 80 percent of the shots put on goal and tallied ten shutouts.
Stefanie Golan is starting her fifth season as the head coach at Minnesota. Golan has guided the Gophers to a 46-31-8 record during her time in
Minneapolis. During her time at the helm UM has posted double-digit wins in each season, finished in the top-five of the Big Ten three times and made two NCAA Tournament appearance.
Home Sweet Home
The Kansas-Minnesota match Friday will mark the fifth time in the last seven seasons the Jayhawks will open their regular season at home. Rock Chalk Park will be a welcome site as KU is coming off a successful two-year stint playing on its home turf. The Jayhawks were 13-5-1 in matches played at home during the regular season since the start of the 2014 campaign. From 2013-14, Kansas also enjoyed an 11-match home winning streak, the longest in program history.
History is also on the Jayhawks’ side in regards to success in their regular-season home openers. In Mark Francis’ first 17 years as the KU head coach, his teams are 11-5-1 in their first home games of the regular season, which includes just two losses in those matches since the 2008 season.
Kansas returns eight players from last year’s team that started at least 17 games. Included in the eight returning starters are six players who have amassed 35 starts or more during their Jayhawk careers.
Senior Tayler Estrada leads the way among active KU players with 60 start in her KU career, while senior Jackie Georgoulis has been a starter in 47 matches. Junior Kayla Morrison has started each of her team’s 42 matches during her first two seasons in Lawrence. Seniors Hanna Kallmaier and Morgan Williams have 39 starts to their credit with senior Aurélie Gagnet not far behind with 36.
Last Time Out
A goal and an assist from sophomore Grace Hagan, as well as Ashley Pankey’s second goal of the preseason, helped propel the Kansas Jayhawks to a 3-0 win over Creighton in their final preseason exhibition last Friday night inside Rock Chalk Park. KU dominated the Bluejays in nearly every category, which included a 22-2 advantage in shots.
The Jayhawks broke through in the 24th minute when Pankey was tackled from behind inside the Creighton penalty area. The referee quickly blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, signaling an upcoming KU penalty kick. Hagan was the woman selected to take the kick, which she confidently slammed to the back of the net and put her team up 1-0 just over midway through the opening period.
Fifteen minutes later the Jayhawks took advantage of a Bluejay miscue. In an attempt to clear the ball out of her box, CU goalkeeper Erin Scott played the ball right to the feet of freshman Katie McClure, who saw nothing but green grass between her and the sophomore keeper just 25 yards from the mouth of the goal. McClure took several touches and unleashed a shot from 15 yards out that flew past the outstretched arms of Scott and in for the Jayhawks’ second goal of the day. After halftime, Kansas didn’t waste much time in putting in their third goal. In the 50th minute, Hagan played a low-running through ball to Pankey who was making a run into the Creighton box. Pankey met the pass around 12 yards out and sent in her second goal of the preseason to put her team up by what proved to be an insurmountable score line of 3-0.
Jayhawks Picked Seventh in Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Kansas soccer was predicted to finish seventh in the 2016 league standings according to the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll which was released last week. The ranking marks just the fourth time in the 17-year history of the preseason vote that KU has been picked seventh or lower in the conference’s poll.
Four-time defending league champion West Virginia was the coaches’ choice to win the conference, receiving eight first-place votes and 64 points overall. The Mountaineers were followed by Texas Tech (57), Oklahoma (42), Baylor (35), Oklahoma State (34), Texas (32), Kansas (30), TCU (22) and Iowa State (8).
Experience vs. Youth
Few teams in the history of Kansas soccer have had a team with has many veterans alongside so many newcomers as the 2016 Jayhawks. This year’s team will feature seven seniors, two of which are fifth-year seniors. Six of the seven members of the 2016 senior class have played in at least 49 matches during their careers and each senior has been in the starting lineup on at least nine occasions.
On the other hand, over 40 percent of this year’s Kansas squad will feature freshmen as the Jayhawks will see nine true freshmen as well as a pair of redshirt freshmen on the roster. No other KU team since 1999 (Mark Francis era) has had a roster with more than 10 freshmen.
Big Cleats to Fill
The 2016 version of the Jayhawks will try to fill the void left by two of the most talented goal scorers in program history. Graduated seniors Liana Salazar and Ashley Williams combined for 49 goals and 22 assists during their respective KU careers, which included 31 goals over the last two seasons. Salazar ended her career as the No. 2 goal scorer in program history with her 28 goals, while Williams closed her collegiate career at No. 7 on KU’s all-time chart with 21.
With the loss of the senior duo, Salazar and Williams, as well as All-Big 12 freshman Parker Roberts, the Jayhawks will need to replace over half of their offensive production from a season ago. Sophomore Grace Hagan could be the top candidate to pull the offensive slack. The Wichita, Kansas product notched four goals and four assists in her first season in Lawrence last year, while seniors Jackie Georgoulis, Ashley Pankey and sophomore Anna Courtney combined for the Jayhawks’ remaining six goals in 2016.
Just One will Do It
The 2016 Jayhawks will try to carry on an impressive trend that has developed over the last three seasons when it comes to scoring. Since the start of the 2012 season, the Kansas soccer team has scored at least one goal in 53 matches. The Jayhawks’ record in those matches: 42-7-4. Kansas was won or drawn all but seven matches in which it has scored, including a 25-4-1 record in those instances during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
First to Score, Wins Galore
Over its past 82 games, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 82-game span, the Jayhawks have been on the losing end only once in the games which they have put in the match’s first goal. Kansas has amassed a record of 40-1-3 in those games, which included an 8-0-1 mark last year. The Jayhawks’ win over Baylor in the Big 12 Championship semifinals last November marked their 31st-consecutive unbeaten match when KU has scored first.
On the flip side, KU hasn’t been quite as fortunate when its opponents have gotten on the board first. Kansas’ wins over Colorado College and Arkansas last season were the first and only wins in that same 82-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. The Jayhawks are 2-32-1 in those games over the last four seasons, including an 0-6-0 mark in 2014 and a 2-8-0 record in 2015.
Let’s Get Defensive
With the entire KU back line set to return this season, the Jayhawks are once again expected to be a stout defensive team. Over the last two seasons, the Jayhawks shutout 14 opponents and boasted a goals-against average of 1.03. Kansas allowed just 25 goals last year and no more than one opponent goal in all but five of their 21 matches. KU went 307-straight minutes without conceding a goal from Oct. 2-16, the 10th-longest streak in school history and the third streak of over 290 minutes in the last two seasons.
Kansas opponents’ lack of goal scoring may be attributed to the Jayhawks’ ability to keep the opposing team’s shot percentage low. Of the 335 shots KU allowed last season, opponents put just 38 percent of those on target and only got nine percent of those shots past the KU goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The Jayhawks will have just over 48 hours to recover from its Friday-night battle with the Gophers before they welcomes in another team from up north, the Marquette Golden Eagles. Kansas and MU will kick off inside Rock Chalk Park on Sunday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. The match will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and ESPN3.
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