Jayhawks set for first edition of Dillons Sunflower Showdown
Beginning in August 2017, fans will be allowed to bring only one clear plastic bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches or a one-gallon, clear, resealable plastic storage bag per person inside Kansas athletics events.
Fans will also be allowed a small clutch purse not to exceed 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches.
KU enters Friday’s match at 6-5-2
|Game 14: vs. Kansas State|
|Rock Chalk Park (2,500)|
|Shot on Goal %||.491||.440|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After a nearly month-long stretch of road matches, the Kansas soccer team will make its long-awaited return to Rock Chalk Park when the Jayhawks host the first-ever soccer edition of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown. Kansas State, now in its second year of competition, will journey to Lawrence in the midst of a three-game losing streak and will meet a KU team that is coming of its first Big 12 victory last weekend. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m., and will be televised on Spectrum Sports KC and ESPN3.
PACK THE PARK
Fans attending Friday’s match can pick up a limited edition 2017 Kansas soccer scarf, while supplies last. Prior to the contest, the Far Post Tailgate will make its debut at Rock Chalk Park, with inflatables, music, food trucks and more. KU soccer will also be celebrating Alumni Day, with Jayhawk soccer alums being recognized during pre-game ceremonies.
Additionally, a bus will provide transportation for KU students to and from Rock Chalk Park from the residence halls on Daisy Hill starting at 5:45 p.m., and free pizza will be available to all KU students while supplies last.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
Kansas enters Friday’s match coming off a come-from-behind victory over Iowa State last weekend which put an end to a six-game winless streak and gave the Jayhawks their first Big 12 win of 2017. Kansas checked in at No. 78 in the most recent RPI released by the NCAA Monday, marking the 14th-consecutive week dating back to 2015 KU has sat inside the top-80 of the 333-team list.
Kansas’ offense was active in its first 13 outings of 2017, having been shutout only twice and posting multiple goals in seven of its contests. KU has tallied 18 goals and is averaging 13 shots per outing. Junior Grace Hagan, a member of the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, leads the squad and the Big 12 with five goals and three assists. She has scored or assisted in seven of KU’s last 12 matches. Twelve other Jayhawks have tallied at least one goal or an assist, with five of those having already amassed 15 or more shots.
The KU defense was stellar over its first six outings of the season, conceding only four goals and posting an opponent scoreless streak of over 450 minutes in that time. However, over their last seven outings, the Jayhawks have allowed an average of two goals per match. Overall, KU opponents are posting 13.5 shots per match with just over 38 percent of those ending up on target. Senior Maddie Dobyns has been Kansas’ starting keeper in each match. She has collected 48 saves and amassed a save percentage of .762. The senior has also tallied four shutouts and has amassed a goals-against average of 1.14.
ABOUT THE WILDCATS
Located in Manhattan, Kansas with an enrollment of 23,779, Kansas State enters Friday’s match with a 5-6-1 record in its second season as a program. K-State returned 18 letterwinners and 10 starters from its inaugural season in 2016, which saw the Wildcats finish with a record of 4-9-3.
The KSU offense has been up and down in 2017, scoring multiple goals in four of its contests, however also enduring five shutouts. K-State is posting 13.8 shots per game and is scoring on just over seven percent of those attempts. The Wildcats have also managed to put 44 percent of those 13.8 shots per game on target. Freshman Brookelynn Entz leads the team with three goals on the year and is joined by nine of her teammates who have notched at least one goal in 2017.
The Kansas State defense has conceded 14 goals this season, however seven of those have come in the last four contests. Wildcat opponents are averaging nearly 16 shots per match and are putting 41 percent of those attempts on frame. Senior goalkeeper Miranda Larkin has played each minute this season in goal for KSU. In her 12 outings she has collected a Big 12-leading 65 saves and has amassed a goals-against average of 1.14.
Mike Dibbini enters his second official season at the helm of K-State women’s soccer in the 2017 season after being hired in December of 2014 as Kansas State’s first women’s soccer coach. He has led the Wildcats to a 9-15-4 record.
KICKOFF TO AN OLD RIVALRY
This weekend the Jayhawks will take part in the first-ever soccer match in the storied history of the Sunflower Showdown rivalry between Kansas and Kansas State. The rivalry began in 1902 with the first meeting between the KU and KSU football teams, a 16-0 Jayhawk victory. In the 115 years since, the Jayhawks and Wildcats have done battle in hundreds of match-ups across several fields of competition. In head-to-head competitions for the sports that both schools still currently sponsor (baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football, women’s tennis, women’s rowing and women’s volleyball), Kansas leads that all-time Sunflower Showdown series at 591-464-6.
LAST TIME OUT
Trailing 1-0 with less than 30 minutes remaining in regulation, the Kansas Jayhawks scored twice over the waning moments of the match to top the Iowa State Cyclones, 2-1, Friday night. Freshman Isabella Cavalcante netted her first-collegiate goal and the eventual game-winner in the 84th minute to propel the Jayhawks to their first conference win of 2017.
After a handful of near misses, the Jayhawks eventually netted the equalizer in the 65th minute. Sophomore Katie McClure served in a corner kick that rebounded right back to her own feet near the intersection of the 18-yard box boundary and the end line. McClure took one touch toward midfield and shot in a curling ball that flew into the side netting at the far post. The goal marked McClure’s third goal of the season and breathed new life into the KU side as it entered the final 30 minutes of regulation.
After gaining possession near midfield in the 85th minute, Cavalcante charged toward the ISU end and sent in a shot from just under 30 yards from the mouth of the Cyclone goal. The high-arching shot snuck under the crossbar and just out of the reach of ISU goalkeeper Antonia Reyes to give the Jayhawks their first lead of the match, a lead Kansas would not relinquish.
Kansas kept the Iowa State attack at bay for the remaining five-plus minutes of regulation to snap its six-game winless streak.
With the release of the season’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report by the NCAA this week, Kansas extended an impressive streak that it has continued to build on over the last two seasons. For 15-straight weeks, dating back to 2015, the Jayhawks have been ranked inside the top-80 on the list that takes numerous factors into account, including strength of schedule, record against top-50 teams and home versus road records.
This week’s report also shows that the Big 12 is among the nation’s toughest conferences. The league boasts seven of its 10 teams inside the top-80. The conference’s high ranking also means the Jayhawks will get plenty of chances to up their national standing as three of their next six contests will be against teams currently ranked inside the top-50 of the RPI.
A TALE OF TWO SEASONS
After a quick start to the 2017 campaign, the Jayhawks have hit a bit of a rough patch over the last month, and nothing demonstrates this fact better than comparing the team’s first six matches with its seven most recent. The team began the year with five victories in its first six outings, but the team that took the field the last seven times has only one win. The difference in squads over those two periods of the 2017 season is apparent by much more than just looking at wins and losses.
In its first six matches, the Kansas defense was almost unbreakable, conceding only four goals and amassing an opponent scoreless streak of over 450 minutes. KU was allowing only 10 opponent shots per match and only 43 percent of those are ending on goal. Since then though, Kansas’ defense has struggled. In their seven most recent games, the Jayhawks have allowed 14 goals, which included three matches with multiple shots finding the back of the net. KU opponents have also averaged 16.3 shots per game over the last seven contests, a six-shot increase compared to the first half of the season.
The recent struggles may largely be attributed to a brutal stretch that the Jayhawks were forced to endure over the month of September. KU spent 14 of the month’s 29 days on the road. The Jayhawks’ opponents in September have been anything but a breeze either, with seven of KU’s nine September foes boasting a combined record of 52-21-9.
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 6-5-2 after their first 13 games of the season, have played or will play seven teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the most recent United Soccer Coaches’ top-25 poll. That number includes three squads inside the top-eight.
The Jayhawks have already played four top-25 teams over the first half 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 with the bulk of Big 12 Conference play still to come. The conference currently features three teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the Coaches’ poll and that includes No. 7 Texas, No. 8 West Virginia and No. 25 Oklahoma State. The Big 12’s winning percentage, 60.4 percent, after the first seven 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 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List member leads the Jayhawks with five goals, three assists and 13 points, figures that also rank the Wichita product among the top-10 in the Big 12 in their respective categories.
Hagan is creeping closer to inserting her name among the top offensive players in Jayhawk history. Her 16 career goals currently rank her 11th 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 10 career assists also have her at No. 17 on KU’s all-time assists list.
FEEDING ON NONCON
This season, the Jayhawks made 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 37-19-7 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 now 117-51-11 in regular-season nonconference games.
Senior Kayla Morrison has continued an impressive streak into her final year in Lawrence as she has started all 76 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 seven 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 2,691 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 116 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 116-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 55-2-6 in those games, which included a 10-0-2 mark last season and already a 5-1-1 mark this year. The Jayhawks’ loss at BYU on Sept. 18 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 Iowa State on Sept. 29 marked just the fourth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 116-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 4-42-4 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 four of their losses and a tie this season.
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.
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.
The Jayhawks return to the pitch at Rock Chalk Park when they face the Texas Longhorns on Friday, October 13. UT has yet to lose a match this season and is just a week removed from handing West Virginia its first regular-season conference loss since 2013. First touch from Rock Chalk Park is slated for 7 p.m., and will be streamed on KUAthletics.com.
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