Jayhawks look for opening weekend sweep Sunday against Jackrabbits

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas will look to move to 2-0 to start its 2018 campaign when the Jayhawks meet the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Sunday, Aug. 19. Kickoff from Rock Chalk Park is slated for 12 p.m. (CT), and will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Josh Klingler (play-by-play) and Huw Williams (analyst) will call the action.

  • KU is coming off an opening night victory over No. 18 Pepperdine, 1-0. It marked the Jayhawks’ third win over a top-25 team in its last seven outings at Rock Chalk Park, dating back to last season.
  • A win over the Jackrabbits on Sunday would give KU its first 2-0-0 start to a season since 2014 and the sixth time in head coach Mark Francis’ 20 seasons in Lawrence.
  • Freshman goalkeeper Sarah Peters picked up the shutout in her first collegiate start Friday night against Pepperdine. It made her just the second true freshman goalkeeper to tally a clean sheet in her first career start for the Jayhawks. Kat Liebetrau also achieved the feat in 2009. 
  • The Jayhawks return 17 letterwinners and seven starters from last year’s squad that finished 8-9-3 and posted a pair of victories over top-10 ranked teams. KU notched a sixth-place finish in Big 12 play with a 3-5-1 record.
  • KU sees the return of their top three offensive threats from a year ago. Senior Grace Hagan led the squad with seven goals and five assists during her junior campaign. Junior Katie McClure was the team’s second-leading scorer each of the last two years, knocking in six a year ago.
  • Head coach Mark Francis is entering his 20th season at the helm in Lawrence, boasting a 207-157-31 record with the Jayhawks. He is also just 10 victories from hitting the 250-plateu in career coaching wins as he holds a 240-182-32 record in his 23 years of collegiate coaching.
  • The Jayhawks were picked to finish sixth in the Big 12’s preseason poll as voted on by the league’s coaches. KU has finished sixth or better in the league standings all but once over the last six seasons.

Kansas is coming of a regular-season opening win over No. 18 Pepperdine, 1-0, Friday night in Lawrence. The Jayhawks return 17 letterwinners and seven starters from the 2017 squad which went 8-9-3 and finished sixth in the Big 12. Mark Francis is entering his 20th season at the helm in Lawrence and holds a 207-157-31 record with the Jayhawks and is second among active Big 12 coaches with 240 career coaching victories.
The Jayhawks will be looking to fill the void left by four outing seniors that logged substantial minutes for KU over the last two seasons. KU returns their top three scorers from a year ago, including senior Grace Hagan, who led the squad with seven goals and five assists during her junior campaign. Junior Katie McClure was the team’s second-leading scorer each of the last two years, knocking in six a year ago. The 2018 KU roster features six other players who tallied a goal and/or an assist last season.
The KU defense is again to be expected to be stout this year, with the return of three of last season’s starters as well as several talented reserves. In 21 matches last year the Jayhawks boasted a goals-against average of 1.34 but allowed one or fewer goals in 14 of those occasions. Kansas will carry four keepers on the 2018 roster and all seem fit for the starting role. Freshman Sarah Peters got the starting nod on opening night against Pepperdine, beginning her collegiate career with a shutout and a pair of saves.
A second-half goal by junior forward Katie McClure pushed Kansas soccer past No. 18 Pepperdine, 1-0, in the regular-season opener Friday night at Rock Chalk Park.
The Jayhawks (1-0-0) battled through the first 45 minutes, but the Waves had the better of it on the offensive end, doubling Kansas’ two shots in the opening half. Despite the difference, the Jayhawk defense and freshman goalkeeper Sarah Peters, making her first collegiate start, blanked the Waves in the first half and headed to the locker room deadlocked at 0-0.
With just over 30 minutes to play, the quickening pace benefitted the Jayhawks as a miscue by the Wave defense led to the first and only goal of the night. Junior forward Katie McClure wound up with the loose ball and dribbled down the field unchallenged until she chipped the ball over the Pepperdine keeper’s head for the unassisted goal in the 61st minute.
Pepperdine made several attempts to even the score over the final 30 minutes, but were unsuccessful as Kansas went on to win its first game of the 2018 season and claim it third win over a top-20 ranked opponent at home since last August.
South Dakota State is coming off a 2-0 setback at the hands of Iowa State Friday night in Ames. Last season, SDSU went 11-5-3 last season with a perfect 7-0 mark in Summit League play, claiming the 2017 Summit League regular season title. Seven players earned All-League honors, including five returners for 2018. Annie Williams was named Defensive Player of the Year, Maggie Smither was the Goalkepeer of the Year and Brock Thompson earned Coach of the Year honors. Also back for SDSU are All-Summit League picks Leah Manuleleua, Alexa Hepner and Kaitlin Zabel.
Key players to watch are:

  • Maggie Smither, last season’s Summit League Goalkeeper of the Year, posted a 0.86 goals against average in 2017 and tallied 83 saves. She allowed only one goal in league play and recorded six shutouts, finishing the year with an 11-5-3 record between the pipes.
  • Annie Williams is the returning Summit League Defensive Player of the Year and will serve as team captain for the Jackrabbits in 2018. She started all 19 games a year ago, played 1,556 minutes and was third on the team with eight points.
  • Alexa Hepner is a third-year starter for a back line that surrendered just one goal in league play last year. The Prior Lake, Minnesota native logged the most minutes (1,721) for the second-consecutive season. She was a 2017 All-Summit Second Team honoree.
  • Leah Manuleleua enters her second season with the Jackrabbits after arriving in 2017 from San Joaquin Delta College. Manuleleua started 18 contests last season and tied for the team lead in goals (seven). She was an All-Summit League First Team pick last year.

South Dakota State is led by second-year head coach Brock Thompson. In his first season as head coach of SDSU, the Jackrabbits claimed the league’s regular season crown with a perfect 7-0 league record and an 11-5-3 overall mark. Thompson was named the Summit League’s Coach of the Year.
The Kansas-Pepperdine match Friday marked the seventh time in the last nine seasons the Jayhawks opened their regular season at home. Rock Chalk Park is a welcome site as KU is coming off a successful three-year stint playing on its home turf. After Friday’s victory, the Jayhawks are 24-12-2 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.
Kansas’ win over the Waves also stopped a recent trend of season-opening setbacks. The Jayhawks had lost three-consecutive openers and four of their last five. In Mark Francis’ first 12 years as the KU head coach, his teams were 8-2-2 in their first games of the regular season and are now 3-5-0 in the eight seasons since.
The 2018 edition of the Jayhawks will be a youthful bunch, with 16 of the 30-woman roster boasting only one season of collegiate experience or less. There are 11 newcomers on this season’s roster, including 10 true freshman, who the coaches are leaning on to contribute almost immediately. The squad will feature four seniors, two of whom are in their fifth year.
The 2017 Jayhawks will try to fill the void left by a key group of players lost to graduation following last season. KU will have to navigate through the departure of four players that were a part of 44 KU victories since 2014 and helped their team to a pair of top-three finishes in the Big 12 as well as two NCAA Tournament berths. Combined, Maddie Dobyns, Kayla Morrison, Hannah Lukinac and Lois Heuchan accumulated 203 starts and have played over 17,800 minutes in the Crimson and Blue. That Jayhawk senior class amassed a record of 44-30-9. This made it the eighth class in program history to have achieved 43 or more wins in a four-year span.
Dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, now at 124 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 124-game span, the Jayhawks were on the losing end only twice in contests which they put in the match’s first goal. Kansas has amassed a record of 57-2-7 in those games, which included a 6-1-2 mark last year and already a 1-0-0 mark in 2018. The Jayhawks’ loss at BYU on Sept. 18 of 2017 was their first in 51 matches 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 on Oct. 13 of last year marked just the fifth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 124-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 5-46-4 in those games over the last five seasons, which included eight of KU’s losses and a tie in 2017.
Senior forward Grace Hagan hopes to put an emphatic stamp on an already outstanding career at KU. Last year saw her make headlines across the state, the region and the nation. She kicked off the year beginning named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and ended it on the All-Big 12 second team and the All-South Region Third team. She led the Jayhawks with seven goals, five assists and 19 points, figures that ranked the Wichita product among the top-10 in the Big 12 in their respective categories.
As she heads into her senior season, she will be in prime position to make big jumps on some impressive lists, creeping closer to inserting her name among the top offensive players in Jayhawk history. Her 18 career goals currently rank her 10th on Kansas’ all-time goal scorer chart and have her only one shy from inserting her name among the school’s top-10. Hagan’s 12 career assists also have her at No. 13 on KU’s all-time assists list.
This season, the Jayhawks will look to make it 11-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 37-19-7 mark in its 63 regular-season nonconference matches (65%), which includes a 25-12-4 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 106-65. Mark Francis has now led KU to a winning record in noncon in 18 of his 19 seasons in Lawrence and is 117-51-11 in regular season nonconference games.
Kansas soccer was predicted to finish sixth in the 2018 league standings according to the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll which was released this week. The ranking marks the sixth time in the last seven years that KU has been picked sixth or higher in the conference’s preseason poll.
West Virginia was picked to finish at the top of the standings for the sixth consecutive year. The five-time Big 12 champion received eight of the nine first-place votes and are ranked No. 9 nationally in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25. Oklahoma State, who captured the 2017 Big 12 regular-season championship, was projected to place second with 69 points. Baylor and Texas were tied for third in the preseason poll with 59 points. Both squads are ranked in the United Soccer Coaches national preseason Top 25, Baylor at No. 15 and Texas at No. 17. TCU, the 2017 Big 12 Championship runner-up, was chosen fifth. Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma were next at sixth, seventh and eighth. Kansas State and Iowa State rounded out the poll in the ninth and tenth.
Kansas will hit the road for the first time in 2018 when they journey to Lincoln, Nebraska for a pair of weekend match-ups against Pac-12 opponents as part of the Husker Invitational. On Friday, Aug. 24, KU will go up against the Oregon State Beavers in a 4 p.m. match at Barbara Hibner Stadium. Two days later KU will meet the Oregon Beavers in a 10 a.m. match.




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