Kansas to kick off 2018 with No. 18 Pepperdine Friday

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas will begin its 24th season of women’s soccer when the Jayhawks host the 18th-ranked Pepperdine Waves in the regular-season opener on Friday, Aug. 17. Kickoff from Rock Chalk Park is slated for 7 p.m., and will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Josh Klingler (play-by-play) and Huw Williams (analyst) will call the action.

  • 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.
  • Kansas is 10-7-2 in regular season openers during Mark Francis’ 19 seasons as head coach but have lost three-consecutive openers dating back to 2015.
  • 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.
  • Senior Grace Hagan enters her final season at Kansas ranking 10th on the school’s all-time goal scorer list. She has tallied 18 goals during her three years in Lawrence and would need to hit the back of the net five times this season to enter the top-five of the prestigious list.
  • Jayhawk fans have packed Rock Chalk Park since its opening in 2014. Kansas welcomed an average of 895 fans per match in 2017, the second-best mark in the 23-year history of the program. That number ranked 32nd in the NCAA and fifth in the Big 12 this season.

The Kansas 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. Junior Regan Gibbs has the most experience of the quartet, as she has tallied four career starts and has tallied over 500 minutes in goal for the Jayhawks. In the last two seasons she has collected 21 saves and boasted a save percentage of .700.
A long strike from sophomore midfielder Ceri Holland in the early minutes of the final frame proved to be the difference as the Kansas Jayhawks withstood a second-half rally from the Colorado State Rams, 3-2, in KU’s lone exhibition of the preseason on Aug. 12.
The Jayhawks got on the board before the first 15 minutes came off the clock. Senior Grace Hagan played a long cross into the CSU box, were senior Kaycie Young knocked it home near the far post. Thirteen minutes later the KU attack produced some good fortune when a Hagan cross was deflected off a CSU defender and into the back of the net for an own goal.
Colorado State came out of the break motivated and managed to cut the KU lead in half just four minutes into the second half. A Jayhawk handball in their own penalty area saw the Rams earn a penalty kick, which CSU senior Beth Plentl converted on to make the score 2-1, still in favor of the home side. KU responded less than two minutes later when Holland found sent home a goal from 25 yards out. A 3-2 score line was as close as the visitors would get however, with KU able to snuff out the late CSU charge.
The Pepperdine Waves enter the new season after a stellar 2017 campaign that saw them win their second-straight conference crown and finish with a 15-3-3 overall record and an 8-0-1 mark in the WCC. Pepperdine advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finished with a No. 16 national ranking. The team returns seven of 11 starters and 17 of 23 letterwinners from a year ago.
The Waves will try to fill the void left by, WCC Player of the Year, Bri Visalli, who was lost to graduation. In 2017, Pepperdine scored 45 goals and were shutout in just four of its 21 outings. The Waves notched 15.8 shots per game and put over 47 percent of those on frame. The team’s top returning scorer is sophomore forward Joelle Anderson, who notched nine goals and added six assists a year ago.
Pepperdine senior Hailey Harbison, last season’s West Coast Conference Defender of the Year and a member of this season’s MAC Hermann Trophy watch list, anchors the Waves’ back line. Last season the Wave defense allowed only nine opponent goals, the fifth-fewest in NCAA DI. Senior Brielle Preece, the WCC’s reigning goalkeeper of the year, is back between the posts for the Waves after posting the seventh-lowest goals-against average in the nation last year at 0.42.
Pepperdine is led by Time Ward, who is beginning his 21st season at the helm in Malibu. He has led the Waves to an overall record of 234-117-54 (.644) with 14 seasons of double-digit victories. He was the runner-up for Soccer Buzz National Coach of the Year honors in 2002. He (and/or his staff) have earned United Soccer Coaches West Region honors five times and he’s been the WCC Coach of the Year on five occasions (2002, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017).
The Kansas-Pepperdine match Friday will mark the seventh time in the last nine seasons the Jayhawks will open their regular season at home. Rock Chalk Park will be a welcome site as KU is coming off a successful three-year stint playing on its home turf. The Jayhawks are 23-12-2 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 will try and stop a recent trend of season-opening setbacks this weekend though. The Jayhawks have 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, however are 2-5-0 in the seven 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 five seniors, one of whom is in her fifth year. Four of the five members of the 2017 senior class has played in at least 39 matches.
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 makes 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 123 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 123-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 56-2-7 in those games, which included a 6-1-2 mark last 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 of last year marked just the fifth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 123-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 nine 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 2017 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.
The Jayhawks will have just over 48 hours to recover from their Friday-night battle with the Waves before they take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in their second game of the weekend. Kansas and SDSU will kick off inside Rock Chalk Park on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 1 p.m. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+ with Josh Klingler (play-by-play) and Huw Williams (analyst) set to call the action.




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