Jayhawks outlast Gophers, 2-1, in spring exhibition

LAWRENCE, Kan. – A goal from freshman Sophie Maierhofer in the 68th-minute helped break a 1-1 tie and lifted the Kansas soccer team to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers Sunday afternoon inside Rock Chalk Park. The match served as the opener for Kansas’ five-game spring exhibition season.
“A lot of positives to take out of the match today,” said head coach Mark Francis. “Obviously with so many starters being seniors, there are a lot of opportunities for people to step up and I thought a lot of people did that today. We had a much better rhythm in the second half and were able to get in behind (their defense) a lot more. I really liked our intensity today. We did a really good job pressuring the ball. So there were definitely a lot of good things to take out of this first outing of the spring.”

The match began at a frantic pace with both teams finding the back of the net within the opening three minutes. Katie McClure snuck in behind the Minnesota defense and was found by Grace Hagan, who slotted in a well-timed pass to her freshman teammate. McClure corralled the pass with one touch and sent a shot in past the Minnesota keeper to give the Jayhawks the early 1-0 lead.
Kansas didn’t sit on the lead for long though as Minnesota pulled even less than a minute later. A KU foul just outside the Jayhawk penalty area resulted in a Gopher free kick, a free kick that was taken almost immediately by Minnesota forward April Bockin. With the Jayhawk defense still trying to get organized, Bockin’s quick strike sailed into the back of the net and tied the game up at 1-1 less than three minutes in.
Both teams settled into the match over the remaining 40 minutes of the opening half, with the Jayhawks only other dangerous opportunity coming from Maierhofer, who saw a shot from 10 yards out sail just high of the Gopher goal in the 20th minute.
The Kansas offense came alive starting from the first touch in the second half. The Jayhawks, who managed a total of three shots in the first half, tallied nine tries over the final 45 minutes, which included Maierhofer’s go-ahead strike with just over 20 minutes remaining in the match.
The Austrian midfielder came to a free ball in the 68th minute and let loose a shot from 20 yards. The ball rocketed through the outstretch arms of the Gopher goalkeeper and into the upper netting, giving the Jayhawks a lead they would not relinquish.
Minnesota had one final glimpse of salvaging a draw after it was awarded a free kick 25 yards from the Jayhawk frame. As the clock ticked under five seconds the desperation shot was taken but sailed over the crossbar as time expired.
The Jayhawks ended the match outshooting the visitors by a tally of 12-8. Kansas also put five of those eight attempts on frame.
“We’ve been working a lot in our spring practices on group defending and I thought that was tremendous today,” concluded Francis. “There are definitely areas that we still need to address over the next few weeks of the spring – finishing and services from wide were issues for us – but I’m really happy with the team’s intensity today. It was a good start for us.”
The Jayhawks will return to the pitch at Rock Chalk Park for their second match of the spring when they welcome in the two-time champions of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), FC Kansas City, on Monday, April 10. Kickoff against FCKC is set for 7 p.m., with admission free to the public.