Kansas begins final road trip of 2017 at Oklahoma Friday
Sophomore Katie McClure
|Game 17: at Oklahoma|
|OU Soccer Complex (3,000)|
|Shot on Goal %||.449||.337|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – With the Big 12 regular-season slate quickly drawing to a close, the Kansas soccer team begins the final stretch of league play when the Jayhawks journey to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Oklahoma Sooners on Friday, Oct. 20. Kansas, sitting at 2-3-1 and sixth on the league table, will look to pick up a key result when they kick off versus OU at 7 p.m., from John Crain Field. The match will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the FoxSportsGo app.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
Kansas enters a key stretch of Big 12 action sitting at sixth in the Big 12 standings following a 1-1 home weekend with a victory over No. 9 Texas and a loss to Baylor. KU is in the midst of a stretch of playing three teams currently ranked in the top-25 over its final five regular-season matches, which includes a pair of contests against teams inside the top-10.
Kansas’ offense has been up and down in its 16 outings of 2017, having scored multiple goals in eight of its contests, but also being shutout four times, three of those occasions coming in the Jayhawks’ last six outings. KU has tallied 21 goals and is averaging 14.2 shots per outing. Junior Grace Hagan, a member of the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, leads the squad with five goals, while both Hagan and senior Lois Heuchan are tops on the team in assists with four each. Twelve other Jayhawks have tallied at least one goal or an assist, with six of those having already amassed 15 or more shots.
The KU defense was stellar over its first seven outings of the season, conceding only five goals and posting an opponent scoreless streak of over 450 minutes in that time. However, Kansas has since allowed at least one opponent goal in each of its next 11 contests, the longest such streak by KU opponents since the 2012 season. Overall, KU opponents are posting nearly 13 shots per game with just over 37 percent of those ending up on target. Senior Maddie Dobyns has been Kansas’ starting keeper in each match. She has collected 55 saves and amassed a save percentage of .750. The senior has also tallied four shutouts and has amassed a goals-against average of 1.12.
ABOUT THE SOONERS
Located in Norman, Oklahoma with an enrollment of 31,250, the Sooners enter Friday’s match scrambling for a result as the Big 12 schedule is drawing to a close. OU has not earned a winning result since its Sept. 10 victory over Illinois, however has three draws in league play, which includes a 0-0 draw versus No. 8 Texas on Oct. 1.
The Oklahoma offense has struggled this season, having been shut out in 10 of its 16 matches and having only scored once in its last 612 minutes of game action. OU is averaging over 10.6 shots per match and is putting 33 percent of those shots on frame. Sophomore forward Kaylee Dao leads her team with three goals and 39 shots on the year.
The Sooner defense boasts four shutouts and has tallied five other outings when it has allowed just one opponent goal. OU opponents are averaging over 15 shots per match and are putting 46 percent of those attempts on frame. Freshman goalkeeper McKinley Crone has started in goal in all 16 of her team’s matches. Crone has turned in a goals-against average of 1.48, a save percentage of .784 and has tallied four shutouts.
Matt Potter is in his sixth season as the head coach of the Oklahoma women’s soccer program, amassing a record of 47-55-18.
LAST TIME OUT
A goal by Baylor’s Aline De Lima with just 12 minutes remaining in regulation proved to be the difference as the Bears struck late to top Kansas, 1-0, Sunday afternoon at Rock Chalk Park.
With both squads unable to put a shot on target for the majority of the match, it was the visitors that who were the first to find the frame on a windy Sunday afternoon in Lawrence. In the 78th minute and Baylor on the attack, a ball was crossed in and headed toward the center of the KU box. De Lima ran on to the pass and shot in her fourth goal of the season and giving her team a lead it would not relinquish.
On the other end of the field it was a frustrating afternoon for the Kansas attack, which was able to amass 11 shots, however none of them ended on the Baylor frame. Lois Heuchan saw two of Kansas’ best looks in the 69th and 70th minutes. The senior was played a short pass near the Baylor penalty spot, where she was able to turn and got a shot off, however her attempt rolled just wide of the left post. Less than 90 seconds later, she got her head on the end of a cross deep in the heart of the Baylor penalty area, but once again her try flew just wide of the left post.
KU has seen numerous instances of late-game heroics this year. Of the 21 goals Kansas has scored this season, 10 of them have come within the final 25 minutes of regulation. Four KU game-winning goals have also come within the final 25 minutes of action, including Kayla Morrison’s goal in the 84th minute versus Texas on Oct. 13. Speaking of game-winners, a total of six different Jayhawks have posted at least one game-winning goal this season.
TOP-10 TEAMS BEWARE
The Jayhawks took the pitch on Oct. 15 against its third top-10 opponent this season when No. 9 Texas came to Lawrence and for the second time, KU came out on top. This match marked the 13th time Kansas hosted a top-10 opponent on its home turf. Following its wins over No. 7 USC and No. 9 Texas this season, KU has now picked up four wins over top-10 squads in Lawrence since 2008. The Jayhawks topped No. 7 Oklahoma State, 2-1, in 2012 and also claimed a 1-0 victory over No. 6 Texas A&M during the 2008 season. That victory over the Aggies still stands as the highest-ranked opponent ever defeated by the Jayhawks.
The win also marked just the second time in program history that Kansas dispatched of multiple top-10 teams in a single season. The only other KU team to do it was the 2004 squad that went on to win the Big 12 regular-season title.
SAVE IT, DOBBY!
Goalkeeper Maddie Dobyns is just 12 saves shy from entering an exclusive club. When she collects her 200th career save, the senior will become just the third goalkeeper in program history to amass 25 or more wins, 15 or more shutouts and 200 or more saves in a career. The only other two Jayhawks to reach those three milestones are Meghan Miller (2001-04) and Julie Hanley (2005-09).
Dobyns is also just the fourth Jayhawk to notch more than 5,000 minutes in between the posts. She currently sits fourth on the school’s all-time goalkeeper minutes list and is also fourth among KU keepers with 56 career appearances.
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 32-straight weeks, dating back to 2014, the Jayhawks have been ranked inside the top-100 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 two of their final three regular-season 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 seven matches with its seven most recent. The team began the year with only one loss in its first seven outings, but the team that took the field the next seven times had 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 seven matches, the Kansas defense was almost unbreakable, conceding only five goals and amassing an opponent scoreless streak of over 450 minutes. KU was allowing only 10 opponent shots per match and just 43 percent of those are ending on goal. In the following seven outings, Kansas’ defense struggled. In games 8-14, the Jayhawks allowed 15 goals, which included three matches with multiple shots finding the back of the net. KU opponents also averaged 15.7 shots per game over those seven contests, a nearly 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.
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, four assists and 14 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 11 career assists also have her at No. 16 on KU’s all-time assists list.
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 7-7-2 after 16 games of the season, have played or will play six teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the most recent United Soccer Coaches’ top-25 poll. That number includes three squads currently inside the top-10.
The Jayhawks have already played five top-25 teams, which included a match against the defending NCAA Champion, No. 7 USC, as well as No. 9 Texas, both resulted in Kansas victories. KU will face at least two more battles with top-25 teams this season as the conference currently features three teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the Coaches’ poll and that includes No. 8 West Virginia No. 24 Oklahoma State. The Big 12’s winning percentage, 60.4 percent, after the first eight weeks of the season ranks fifth out of the 31 DI conferences.
Senior Kayla Morrison has continued an impressive streak into her final year in Lawrence as she has started all 79 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 three 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 2,961 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 119 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 119-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 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 Texas on Oct. 13 marked just the fifth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 119-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 5-44-4 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 six 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.
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.
KU will hit the pitch in Stillwater for a Sunday, Oct. 22 match against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls. The contest is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Kansas will then close out the regular season when the Jayhawks welcome West Virginia to Lawrence on Friday, Oct. 27. First touch against the Mountaineers is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Rock Chalk Park.
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