Let’s Dance: Jayhawks, Tigers to renew rivalry in NCAA Tournament Sunday

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GM 20: Kansas vs. Missouri
Date Sunday, November 13
Time 1 p.m. Central
Location Lawrence, Kan.
Stadium Rock Chalk Park
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 W-L-D 10-5-4 11-6-2
 Goals/Gm 1.26 1.95
 Shots/Gm 16.2 19.2
 Shot % .078 .101
 Shot on Goal % .365 .455
 Goals Allowed/Gm 0.89 1.26
 Saves/Gm 3.3 3.3
 Save % .788 .724
 Fouls/Gm 10.0 9.7
 Yellow Cards/Red Cards 11/1 16/0

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Back for its seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament, the University of Kansas soccer team will take on former Big 12 rival, Missouri, in NCAA Tournament action on Sunday, Nov. 13 in Lawrence. The Jayhawks will meet the Tigers in the first-round match set for 1 p.m., at Rock Chalk Park. The old league foes will meet for the 22nd time overall and the third time in NCAA Tournament play.
The Jayhawks (10-5-4, 5-1-2 Big 12) enter the NCAA Tournament match coming off just their second loss since mid-September. KU fell to eventual tournament runner-up TCU, 1-0, in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championship last week in Kansas City. Kansas closed out its regular-season conference slate finishing second on the league table, its highest Big 12 finish since 2004.
The Jayhawk offense has been solid this season, especially in Big 12 play. In its eight league contests, KU averaged 1.5 goals per game, in four of which the Jayhawks netted multiple goals. The Kansas team has been an unselfish one, featuring 10 different Jayhawks with double-digit shots, while 13 players boast a goal or an assist. Sophomore Grace Hagan, an All-Big 12 First Team selection, leads the team with seven goals. Hagan, along with freshman Katie McClure, have combined for nearly a third of the team’s shots, with 97 between the two Wichita natives.
The KU defense has allowed only 17 goals in 2016, the third-fewest in the conference this season. The Jayhawks have held their opponents to an average of just 11.6 shots per game but KU foes have managed to put just over 36 percent of those tries on frame. The KU defense has allowed one opponent goal or fewer in 20 of its last 23 outings dating back to last season. Junior goalkeeper Maddie Dobyns boasts a goals-against average of 0.81 in her 17 starts, the third-lowest mark among Big 12 keepers.
Missouri (11-6-2, 6-4-1 SEC) began its season with eight wins in its first 11 outings, but claiming only three wins in its next eight contests, the most recent a 3-3 draw with No. 9 Florida in the quarterfinals of the SEC Championship. The Tigers finished fourth in the SEC regular-season standings. They led the league with over 19 shots per game and were fourth with their 37 goals scored.
The Tiger offense has been potent this season, scoring multiple goals in 11 of its 19 games and three or more in six of those outings. MU is posting 19.2 shots per game and is scoring on over 10 percent of those attempts. Missouri has also managed to put over 45 percent of those 19.2 shots per game on target. SEC Freshman of the Year Sarah Luebbert leads the team with 10 goals, while junior forward Allie Hess is tops on the squad with her seven assists.
The MU defense has conceded seven goals over its last three outings, but allowed four in its previous seven matches. Tiger opponents are averaging 12.2 shots per match and are putting under 38 percent of those attempts on frame. Missouri sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Dossey has played in 18 of her team’s 19 matches. Dossey has amassed a goals-against average of 1.22, a save percentage of .724 and has tallied 57 saves and three solo shutouts.
Bryan Blitz is in his 21st season as the head coach of the Missouri women’s soccer program. In his first 21-plus seasons with the Tigers, Blitz has amassed a 228-176-31 record.
Horned Frog junior forward Allison Ganter’s goal in the 51st minute proved to be enough to take down the No. 24 Kansas Jayhawks, 1-0, Nov. 2 in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals at Swope Soccer Village.
Neither team created many dangerous chances over the first 45 minutes of action. Kansas’ best look of the opening period came within the opening seven minutes of action when freshman Katie McClure let loose a shot from 10 yards out. The strike skipped off the crossbar and out of bounds, just inches high of putting Kansas ahead early in the match.
Similar to the KU-TCU match earlier this year, the Horned Frogs came out of the halftime locker room on a mission. Just over five minutes into the second half, a TCU corner kick was too much for the KU defense to handle. The service from Michelle Prokof flew to the far post and ping-ponged around the six-yard box before Ganter poked in the loose ball.
The match came to a close 40 minutes later, handing Kansas just its second loss over the last five weeks. McClure led the squad with four shots on the night, and was tops on the KU team that outshot the Horned Frogs 13-8. The match was also a physical one, with 23 fouls whistled between the two teams.
The Kansas Jayhawks will make their seventh appearance in the NCAA Championship Sunday when they welcome in the Missouri Tigers for the First Round match. Kansas is 4-6 all-time in NCAA Tournament games with its best run coming in 2003 when the Jayhawks advanced to the Sweet 16, where they fell to UCLA, 1-0, in Los Angeles. Kansas and Missouri met for the first of two times in NCAA Tournament play that same year, with the Jayhawks coming out on top, 2-0, in the second-round game played in Columbia.
Kansas is making its first appearance in the Big Dance since 2014. That year KU welcomed Missouri for the second of the programs’ two NCAA meetings for the first-round game played at Rock Chalk Park. MU advanced by way of a 3-1 win.
While half of the Jayhawk roster will be enjoying its first experience in the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas roster features several veterans who have notched tourney action. Seniors Tayler Estrada, Jackie Georgoulis, Morgan Williams and junior Kayla Morrison all started in KU’s last NCAA Tournament game, a 3-1 first-round loss to Georgia in 2014. Estrada and Williams saw action in all 90 minutes of the match, with Estrada posting a pair of shots. Georgoulis played 45 minutes and added an assist in the loss.
The school record for most NCAA Tournament games played belongs to five Jayhawks who played in six tournament games from 2001-04. Monica Brothers, Amy Geha, Stacy Leeper, Gabriela Quiggle and Lauren Williams played on three KU squads that advanced to the Big Dance.
When Kansas and Missouri meet on the pitch Sunday, the two squads will renew a rivalry between the two states that dates back to the Civil War. While the soccer series will turn 21 years old this weekend, the Jayhawks and Tigers have been doing battle on the collegiate playing field since 1891. The rivalry has cooled of late though as the two schools will only be playing each other in any sport for the fourth time since 2011. Most recently in the 2015 NCAA Softball Championship, the Tigers beat Kansas in the Regionals of the tournament.
On the soccer field, KU and MU have had an interesting series, which began in 1996. The Tigers won six of the first eight meetings, while the Jayhawks won or tied eight of the 13 most recent matches. In their last meeting as conference foes in 2011, Missouri scored three goals within the final six minutes to top the Jayhawks, 3-2, in Columbia. Both schools now have seven NCAA Tournament appearances, one regular-season conference title and coaches who have been at their respective schools for more than 18 years.
The Kansas soccer team saw its most representatives on the postseason all-conference teams in a decade when the Big 12 announced the awards Oct. 31. Six Jayhawks were honored with sophomore forward Grace Hagan heading up the group with her first team selection. KU boasted a trio on the second team as well as a pair on the All-Freshman squad.
Hagan claimed All-Big 12 First Team honors for the first time in her young KU career, marking the sixth-consecutive season Kansas had at least one Jayhawk on the first team. Senior midfielders Tayler Estrada and Hanna Kallmaier as well as junior defender Kayla Morrison, earned spots on the second team, all for the first time. Jayhawk freshmen Katie McClure and Addisyn Merrick rounded out the KU honorees with their selection on the All-Freshman squad. McClure was a unanimous choice by the league’s coaches.
The announcement means Kansas has had at least one Jayhawk on the All-Big 12 teams each year since the current format began in 2000. The six Jayhawks selected also marked the fifth-straight season three or more KU representatives were selected to the all-conference squads. Selections for the All-Big 12 teams were voted on by the league’s coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players.
With the release of the season’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report by the NCAA this week, several good signs stick out for the Jayhawks. Kansas checked in at No. 23 on the list that takes numerous factors into account including strength of schedule, record against top-50 teams and home versus road record.
One area that may be helping Kansas in its climb up the national charts is its strength of schedule. The Jayhawks currently hold the nation’s 16th-toughest schedule, according to the RPI. Nine of KU’s past or future opponents currently find themselves in the top-40 of this week’s index, while a total of 12 are sitting in the top-50.
This week’s report also ranks the Big 12 as the nation’s toughest conferences. The league, which sits at No. 1 in the conference RPI standings, boasts all nine teams inside the top-80.
Forward Grace Hagan has put together an impressive sophomore campaign. She leads the Jayhawks with seven goals and 17 points, figures that rank the Wichita product among the top-five in the Big 12 in their respective categories. It’s been evident that when Hagan goes, so go the Jayhawks. Kansas is 4-1-3 this season when Hagan scores or assists and is 4-1-2 when Hagan tallies three shots or more. KU opponents may have picked up on this trend as in the 11 instances when Hagan was held to two shots or fewer, the Jayhawks were winners in six of those contests.
Hagan is on pace for one of the best sophomore seasons in program history. One more goal would make her one of the top-three scoring sophomores ever to don the Crimson and Blue. It was also mark the most goals scored by a Jayhawk sophomore since Emily Cressy shot in 12 during the 2009 campaign.
With any veteran laden team, there are bound to be some impressive career streaks established and the 2016 Jayhawks are no different. One streak that shows the continuity and consistency of this KU crew is the amount of consecutive games started. Nine Jayhawks boast active or career-long stretches of 25-straight matches started or longer. This includes junior Kayla Morrison, whose streak sits at 61-straight starts for Kansas.
Morrison’s mark is already among the longest in program history as it sits sixth on the all-time list among field players. If the Corona, California product is in the starting lineup in Kansas’ first round match of the NCAA Tournament, she would move to fifth on that list with 61-straight starts.
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.
The Kansas offense has shown to be a tough assignment for opposing defenses this year after a host of Jayhawks have made their presence known on the stat sheet. Twelve different Jayhawks have had their hand in at least one of the team’s goals thus far in 2016, either scoring or assisting. A total of 13 players have managed to tally seven or more shots and, while sophomore Grace Hagan and freshman Katie McClure have notched nearly a third of the team’s total shots (97), eight of their teammates have added 15 or more attempts to the team’s total of 307.
This is a trend is an improvement from last year’s squad which was also an unselfish bunch, as 11 different players managed to post double-figure shots and 10 Jayhawks tallied at least one goal or assist in 2015.
With a veteran crew comprising the KU back line this season, the Jayhawks are once again proving to be a stout defensive team. Kansas boasted a goals-against average of 0.85 during the regular season, which includes five shutouts. The Jayhawks are also allowing just 11.6 opponent shots per match, which includes eight games when KU opponents sent in 10 or fewer attempts. Over their last 61 matches (dating back to the start of the 2014 season), the Jayhawks shutout 19 opponents and boasted a goals-against average of 0.93. Kansas has conceded 59 opponent goals in that span and has allowed one opponent goal or less in 20 of its last 23 matches.
Already this season, KU has turned in an impressive shutout streak. KU went 282-straight minutes without conceding a goal from Aug. 19-28. The figure was the 18th-longest in school history and marked the sixth time over the last five seasons the Jayhawks have tallied an opponent scoreless streak of 280 minutes or longer. KU has also conceded just two opponent goals in its last 265 minutes of play, good for a goals-against average of 0.68 during that span.
The Jayhawks have continued to carry on an impressive trend that has developed over the last three seasons when it comes to scoring. Since the start of the 2012 season, the Kansas soccer team has scored at least one goal in 68 matches. The Jayhawks’ record in those matches: 52-8-8. Kansas was won or drawn all but eight matches in which it has scored, including a 25-4-1 record in those instances during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and a 9-1-4 record this year.
Over its past 101 games, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 101-game span, the Jayhawks have been on the losing end only once in contests which they have put in the match’s first goal. Kansas has amassed a record of 49-1-5 in those games, which included an 8-0-1 mark last year and a 9-0-2 mark so far this season. The Jayhawks’ win over Iowa State on Oct. 28 marked their 44th-consecutive unbeaten match when they have scored first.
On the flip side, KU hasn’t been quite as fortunate when its opponents have gotten on the board first. Kansas’ win over Texas Tech on Sept. 23 marked just the third victory for the Jayhawks in that same 101-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. The Jayhawks are now 3-37-3 in those games over the last four seasons, which includes all five of the Jayhawks’ losses and two of their draws thus far in 2016.
The winner of the KU-MU contest will play the winner of the No. 2-seed North Carolina-Liberty match on Friday, Nov. 18 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. If the Jayhawks win each of their first two matches, they will then play in the third-round game on Sunday, Nov. 20, again in Chapel Hill.
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