Jayhawks journey to Salt Lake City to face No. 25 Utah
Freshman Isabella Cavalcante
|Game 9: at Utah|
|8 p.m. (CT)|
|Ute Field (2,000)|
|Shot on Goal %||.525||.574|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the third time in four games the Kansas soccer team will face a top-25 opponent when the Jayhawks take on the 25th-ranked Utah Utes Friday night in Salt Lake City. Kansas, which is starting a five-game road stint, will kick off against the Utes (4-2-1) at 8 p.m. (CT) on the Pac-12 Network.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
After reeling off a six-game unbeaten streak, Kansas is coming off its worst home defeat in six seasons, a 5-1 loss at the hands of then-No. 10 Texas A&M on Sept. 10. The Jayhawks, who are receiving votes in the latest United Soccer Coaches’ Poll, begin a stretch of five-straight matches away from Rock Chalk Park carrying an eight-game unbeaten streak in regular-season games played on the road dating back to last season.
The Jayhawk offense has been active in its first eight outings of 2017, having been shutout only once and posting multiple goals in five of contests. KU has tallied 13 goals and is averaging 12.4 shots per outing. Junior Grace Hagan, a member of the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, leads the squad with three goals and three assists. She has scored or assisted in five of KU’s last seven matches. Eleven other Jayhawks have tallied at least one goal or an assist, with four of those having already amassed 10 or more shots.
The KU defense has largely been stellar over the first month of the season. Outside of its two losses (0-3 vs. Nebraska and 1-5 vs. Texas A&M), KU has allowed just two goals in its six other contests, which included an opponent scoreless streak of over 450 minutes. The Jayhawks have also allowed just nine opponent shots or fewer in four of its eight games. Senior Maddie Dobyns was Kansas’ starting keeper in each match. She has collected 29 saves and amassed a save percentage of .806. The senior has also tallied four shutouts in eight games and has amassed a goals-against average of 0.91.
In its three road matches this season, the Jayhawks have continued their trend of strong performances in matches away from Rock Chalk Park in the recent years. Kansas can hang its hat on an impressive record in road games over the past three-plus years. The Jayhawks have not faced a losing result their last eight regular-season road games, the longest such streak in program history. KU has played 31 regular-season road games since the start of the 2014 season, amassing a record of 16-10-5, which included a 4-3-3 record last year and already a 2-0-1 mark this season following the draw at Saint Louis on Sept. 8. The Jayhawks hope they can continue this trend over the next three weekends, with a five-game road stretch upcoming.
ABOUT THE UTES
Located in Salt Lake City with an enrollment of 31,660, No. 25 Utah enters Friday’s match with a 4-2-1 record but has only one win in its last four outings. The Utes fell at No. 10 Duke on Monday, Sept. 11, 2-1, their fourth-consecutive road match.
Utah’s offense has been solid during its first four weeks of action, scoring 19 goals in seven games and averaging over 15 shots per game. The Utes have also put 57 percent of their tries on target. Utah has seen seven different players already net a goal which includes two, junior Paola Van der Veen and junior Hailey Skolmoski, who have each already collected six goals. The two have also combined for 53 shots, just under half of their team’s total.
The Ute defense was solid over their opening seven matches, posting a pair of shutouts and just one goal in four outings. Utah opponents have averaged less than nine shots per game and only three shots on goal per match. In goal, sophomore Carly Nelson has started between the posts for each match. In seven starts, Nelson has allowed six goals and made 13 saves and amassed a save percentage of .684.
Head coach Rich Manning is currently in his 16th year at the helm of the Utah program, having amassed a record of 170-109-41. He has coached the Utes to a NCAA Tournament berth in seven of his years at the helm. Manning directed Utah to three Mountain West Conference regular-season championships and a pair of league tournament titles.
LAST TIME OUT
No. 19-ranked Kansas could not survive a five goal barrage by No. 10 Texas A&M as the Jayhawks fell to their former Big 12 foe, 5-1, Sunday afternoon at Rock Chalk Park. Junior Grace Hagan netted KU’s lone goal of the match in the 48th minute, her third of the season.
The Aggies came out of the gates in a flurry in the opening 10 minutes, putting KU down with a goal in the eighth minute off the foot of Emily Bates which was included in a bombardment of four TAMU shots over the first 10 minutes of action. Down 2-0, Kansas started the second half on a promising note when Hagan cut the Aggie lead in half just less than three minutes into the second frame. Sophomore Elise Reina played a long cross into the heart of the TAMU box, where Hagan met it with a header attempt. The shot found the inside of the far post and breathed new life into the Jayhawks, who trailed 2-1 with more than 40 minutes still to play in the match. However, the KU momentum from Hagan’s goal was suddenly snatched away when a bout of bad luck struck the home side. A low cross in front of the Jayhawk net was deflected in by a Jayhawk defender only four minutes after Kansas got on the scoresheet. The goal put the Aggies back on top by two goals.
NAVIGATING A TOP-TIER SCHEDULE
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.
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.
Junior forward Grace Hagan has already put the early touches on an impressive 2017 campaign. The member of the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List leads the Jayhawks with three goals and three assists and nine points, figures that also rank the Wichita product among the top-seven in the Big 12 in their respective categories. It’s been evident that when Hagan goes, so go the Jayhawks. Kansas is 4-1-0 this season when Hagan scores or assists.
Hagan is creeping closer to inserting her name among the top offensive players in Jayhawk history. Her 14 career goals currently rank her 17th on Kansas’ all-time goal scorer chart and have her only three shy from inserting her name among the school’s top-10. Hagan’s 10 career assists also have her at No. 17 on KU’s all-time assists list.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
The Kansas offense has shown to be a tough assignment for opposing defenses this year after a host of Jayhawks have made their presence known on the stat sheet. Twelve different Jayhawks have had their hand in at least one of the team’s goals thus far in 2017, either scoring or assisting. A total of 12 players have managed to tally three or more shots and which includes four players who have posted 11 or more attempts.
This is a trend that has been carried over from last year’s squad which was also an unselfish bunch, as 12 different players managed to post double-figure shots and 13 Jayhawks tallied at least one goal or assist in 2016.
FEEDING ON NONCON
This season, the Jayhawks will try to make it 10-straight seasons with a .500 winning percentage or better against regular-season nonconference foes. Since the start of the 2012 season, Kansas has posted an impressive 37-17-7 mark in its 61 regular-season nonconference matches (67%), which includes a 25-10-4 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 103-60. Mark Francis has led KU to a winning record in noncon in 17 of his first 18 seasons in Lawrence and is now 116-49-11 in regular season nonconference games.
LET’S GET DEFENSIVE
The Jayhawks have once again proved to be a stout defensive team this season, carrying over the trend from their last several seasons. In the six matches that it has won or drawn this year, Kansas boasted a goals-against average of 0.32, which included four shutouts. In those games, the Jayhawks allowed less than 10 opponent shots per match, which included four games when KU opponents sent in nine or fewer attempts. Over their last 71 matches (dating back to the start of the 2014 season), the Jayhawks shutout 24 opponents and boast a goals-against average of 0.97. Kansas conceded 71 opponent goals in that span and has allowed one opponent goal or less in 27 of its last 33 matches.
KU has already posted an impressive shutout streak early this season. From Aug. 18-Sept. 3, Kansas went 450-straight minutes without conceding a goal. The figure is the third-longest in school history and marks the fourth time over the last six seasons the Jayhawks have tallied an opponent scoreless streak of 340 minutes or longer.
JUST ONE WILL DO IT
The Jayhawks continue to carry on an impressive trend that has developed over the last five seasons when it comes to scoring. Since the start of the 2012 campaign, the Kansas soccer team scored at least one goal in 75 matches. The Jayhawks’ record in those matches: 58-9-9. Kansas won or tied all but nine matches in which it scored, including a 26-4-6 record in those instances since the 2015 season, and already a 5-1-1 record this year.
FRANCIS CLAIMS WIN NO. 200 AT KANSAS
With Kansas’ 3-0 win over Central Michigan on Aug. 20, Mark Francis claimed his 200th victory as the head coach of Kansas. He has now amassed a record of 201-148-28 over his 19-year stint in Lawrence. The veteran coach has averaged just over 11 wins per season during that span. He is currently second among the active Big 12 coaches in victories behind West Virginia’s Nikki Izzo-Brown.
Senior Kayla Morrison has continued an impressive streak into her final year in Lawrence as she has started all 71 of the Jayhawks’ matches since her freshman year in 2014. Morrison’s mark is already among the longest in program history as it’s fifth on the all-time list among field players. If the Corona, California product is in the starting lineup in each of Kansas’ final 11 regular-season games, she would move to a tie for third on that list with 82-straight starts. In fact, Morrison hasn’t even been subbed out of a game in 2,206 minutes. Her last stint on the bench came in a 13 minute rest at the end of the first half of KU’s 2-1 win over Valparaiso on Sept. 4, 2016. She has played every one of KU’s minutes since.
Two field players hold the ultimate title of “Iron Jayhawk” as they started each of KU’s matches over a four-year span. Estelle Johnson (2006-09) and Afton Sauer (2004-07) were in the Starting 11 in all 83 games of their careers.
FIRST TO SCORE, WINS GALORE
Over its past 111 games, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, Kansas developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 111-game span, the Jayhawks were on the losing end only once in contests which they put in the match’s first goal. Kansas has amassed a record of 55-1-6 in those games, which included a 10-0-2 mark last season and already a 5-0-1 mark this year. The Jayhawks’ draw at Saint Louis on Sept. 8 was their 51st-consecutive unbeaten match when they scored first.
On the flip side, KU wasn’t quite as fortunate when its opponents have gotten on the board first. Kansas’ win over Texas Tech on Sept. 23 of last season marked just the third and most recent victory for the Jayhawks in that same 111-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 3-40-3 in those games over the last four seasons, which included all six of the Jayhawks’ losses and two of their draws in 2016 as well as their two losses this season.
MORE ON THE KANSAS UPSET OF USC
The Jayhawks defeat of the defending national champion, USC, was monumental for several reasons. Not only was Kansas able to extend its winning streak to five games, its longest since 2014, but also notched its first victory over a top-10 team since 2012, as the Trojans sat at No. 7 on the day of the match. Here are more notes on the Jayhawks win over the Trojans:
- The win gave Kansas its fifth win all-time against a top-10 ranked opponent and its first against nonconference team at home.
- KU’s last victory over a top-10 team came on Sept. 21, 2012, when the Jayhawks topped No. 7 Oklahoma State, 2-1, in Lawrence.
- Katie McClure’s goal in the 12th minute marked the first time USC had trailed in a match since its final regular-season game of 2016 on Nov. 4. Prior to McClure’s strike, the Trojans went 742-straight minutes without finding themselves behind in a match.
- Kansas was one of three Big 12 schools that tallied unbeaten results against top-12 opponents last weekend. West Virginia beat No. 1 Penn State, 2-1, while Oklahoma State tallied a 2-2 draw against No. 12 Texas A&M.
- The match marked the first time in program history Kansas played a team coming off a national championship the year prior. The Jayhawks would end up playing three of the four College Cup squads during their 2016 season: USC (L, 0-2), West Virginia (L, 0-1) and North Carolina (L, 0-2).
EXPERIENCE VS. YOUTH
The 2017 edition of the Jayhawks will be a youthful bunch, with 16 of the 25-woman roster boasting only one season of collegiate experience or less. There are eight newcomers on this season’s roster, including seven true freshmen, who the coaches are leaning on to contribute almost immediately. The squad will feature five seniors, one of whom is in her fifth year. Four of the five members of the 2017 senior class have played in at least 39 matches.
JAYHAWKS PICKED TO FINISH SECOND IN PRESEASON BIG 12 POLL
Kansas soccer was predicted to finish second in the 2017 league standings according to the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll which was released Aug. 9. The ranking marked the highest Kansas has been picked to finish since the preseason coaches’ poll began in 2000.
Five-time defending league champion West Virginia was the coaches’ unanimous choice to win the conference, receiving eight first-place votes and 81 points overall. The Mountaineers were followed by Kansas (71), Oklahoma (57), Texas Tech (55), Baylor (47), Oklahoma State (38), TCU (37), Texas (32), Iowa State (23) and Kansas State (9).
BIG CLEATS TO FILL
The 2017 Jayhawks are trying to fill the void left by a large group of players lost to graduation following last season. KU will have to navigate through the departure of seven players who were a part of 53 KU victories since 2012. They helped their team to a pair of top-three Big 12 finishes, its fifth-straight Big 12 tournament berth and two NCAA Tournament appearances. Combined, these seven accumulated 355 starts and played over 33,000 minutes in the Crimson and Blue. This senior class also combined for 11 goals, 23 assists and 311 shots. From 2013-16, this Jayhawk senior class amassed a record of 43-32-8. This makes it the seventh class in program history to have achieved 43 or more wins in a four-year period.
Kansas will play a rare Monday match when the Jayhawks head to Provo to take on the BYU Cougars on Monday, Sept. 18. The match from South Field is slated to begin at 2 p.m. (CT), and will be streamed live on BYUtv. KU will then have just three days to prepare for the Big 12 opener, a Friday night contest against the TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m., on FoxSports Southwest.
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