No. 16 Jayhawks to invade Pittsburgh Sunday
Junior Taylor Christie
|Game 8: vs. Pittsburgh|
|12 p.m. (CT)|
|Ambrose Ubranic Stadium (1,000)|
|Shot on Goal %||.364||.565|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 16 Kansas Jayhawks will try to continue their undefeated start to 2018 when they journey to Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon date with the Panthers on Sunday, Sept. 9. Kansas (5-0-2) will kick off against Pittsburgh (4-2-1) at 12 p.m. (CT) on ACC Network Extra.
- The Jayhawks found themselves ranked in the United Soccer Coaches poll for the third-straight week, jumping three spots to No. 16. It marks the highest ranking for the Jayhawks in the coaches poll since 2014, when KU topped out at No. 9.
- With the release of this week’s national rankings, nine of KU’s 19 regular-season opponents find themselves either ranked or receiving votes in the coaches poll. The number includes six Big 12 opponents.
- Kansas’ 0-0 draw with Cincinnati Thursday ended a seven-match streak that saw the Jayhawks not experience a shutout. KU has not been blanked in back-to-back regular-season matches since the 2015 season.
- A win or a draw against the Panthers Sunday would give KU its first unbeaten start to a season following eight games since 2014, and the second time in head coach Mark Francis’ 20 seasons in Lawrence.
- Forward Katie McClure has kicked off her junior year with five goals and three assists, and has already twice been named the Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Week. Her 13 points are the most by a player in the Big 12 so far this season.
- The KU defense have already put together an impressive shutout streak, starting the season going 354 minutes without conceding an opponent goal until Oregon’s Emma Eddy broke through in the 84th minute on Aug. 26. That streak ranks as the eighth-longest in program history.
- Staying on defense, the KU back line has held its first seven opponents to an average of 6.9 shots per game, which includes four matches when the Jayhawks conceded seven or fewer shots.
- Four of KU’s 11 goals have come in the final 15 minutes of regulation or in overtime. In 20 outings last season, Kansas netted six goals after the 75th minute.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
Kansas is ranked No. 16 by the United Soccer Coaches following its best start to a season since 2014. The Jayhawks have conceded just two goals through their first seven outings and have been led on the offensive end by junior Katie McClure, who has posted five goals and three assists, with her 13 points leading the Big 12. The Jayhawks’ 5-0-2 start marks the second time KU has been unbeaten through its first six matches under head coach Mark Francis.
In addition to McClure, the Jayhawk offense enjoyed an effective start to 2018, averaging over 15 shots in its first seven matches, and averaging nearly six of those shots on target per match. Five different Jayhawks have tallied double-digits this season and nine different players have posted a goal or an assist. KU’s top returning goal scorer is senior Grace Hagan, who has led the team with seven goals in each of her last two seasons.
The KU defense has already showed it will be a tough match-up for most offenses in 2018, having conceded just two goals and allowing only 48 shots in the Jayhawks’ first seven outings. Those seven KU opponents only put 12 of those 48 strikes on frame. Freshman Sarah Peters was the starting keeper in all seven matches, keeping a clean sheet in five of those appearances and collected 10 saves for a .833 save percentage.
LAST TIME OUT
With the help of another strong defensive showing, the No.16-ranked Kansas Jayhawks battled to a 0-0 draw against the Cincinnati Bearcats Thursday night inside Gettler Stadium. Kansas outshot the home side by a tally of 19-7, however was unable to find the back of the net, settling for its second draw of the season but keeping its undefeated record intact, now at 5-0-2.
Taking on a team that was touting a 15-match unbeaten streak on its home field, Kansas didn’t seem intimated right from the opening whistle. The KU offense was lead in the early minutes by senior Grace Hagan, who seemed keen on putting in her first goal of the young season. The Wichita product tallied three shots in the opening 45 minutes, one of which skidded off the far post, just inches away from logging the game’s opening goal
It was more of the same in the second frame, with the KU defense making life difficult for the Bearcat offense, and the Jayhawk attack creating chances early and often. After tallying five shots in the opening half, KU amassed six shots in the first 10 minutes following halftime, but again, none got past Cincinnati goalkeeper, Claudia Eustaquio. The Jayhawks were forced to go to their third overtime period on their last four outings and did everything they could to net the golden goal. Hagan and fellow forward Katie McClure each saw prime opportunities in the 20 minutes of extra time, but luck was not on their side, as the match ended in a scoreless draw.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS
Pittsburgh, with an enrollment of 28,642, enters the match with the Jayhawks Sunday at 4-2-1 after a 2-0 win over Duquesne Thursday. The Panthers feature 14 newcomers on their roster, as 50 percent of the 2018 squad is new to the program. Pitt debuted 11 freshmen and three transfers. From the 2017 roster with nine or more games of experience, only six players returned.
Freshman forward Anna Rico leads the squad in goals and shots with three and 20, respectively. Ten Panthers have posted four or more shots in Pitt’s first seven outings of 2018. The Panthers have scored multiple goals in three contests this season and average over 12 shots per outing, putting over 56 percent of those attempts on frame.
On the defensive end of the field, UP has been up and down to start the year, allowing a combined eight goals in its losses to TCU and North Texas but conceding only three goals in its over five outings. Pittsburgh has held its opponents to 12.1 shots per game and a 54 percent shot on goal percentage. The Panthers have had two goalkeepers sin action so far this season with Amaia Pena logging the bulk of the minutes between the pipes. In seven outings, Pena has tallied 28 saves, a save percentage of .824 and a goals-against average of 0.94.
Head coach Randy Waldrum is in his first season as the head coach of the Panthers. Waldrum saw unprecedented success in his tenure at the helm of the perennial powerhouse Notre Dame women’s program. In his 14 seasons, he led the Fighting Irish to two national championships, capturing the College Cup title in 2004 and 2010. His teams won eight Big East Tournament titles and appeared in eight NCAA Final Four games in that span.
HOT START HAWKS
The impressive early performance to the 2018 campaign puts this year’s Jayhawk squad among just a handful of Kansas teams that have gotten their seasons off to a fast start. This bunch joins six other KU teams that also suffered one or fewer losses during the first seven games of the season. This number includes three teams in the last five years.
The Jayhawks’ early success bodes well for the bunch, as four of those past six KU teams went on to make the NCAA Tournament and posted 13 or more victories. In three of those seasons, Kansas logged top-three finishes in the final Big 12 standings.
With their win Friday night over Utah, the Jayhawks put the finishing touches on another stellar month of August, which the team has grown accustomed to over the past 10 years. The win over the Utes gave KU its fifth unbeaten month of August since 2008. Since that 2008 campaign, the Jayhawks have dropped no more than one result in August, amassing a record of 30-7-3 (.788 winning %) during the season’s opening month.
The hot start of those Jayhawk teams is made evident by more than just the win-loss column. Since 2008, KU has averaged 1.85 goals per game and has amassed a goal differential of +41 in August. The Jayhawks have also posted 19 shutouts in those 40 August outings to go along with a 0.80 goals-against average.
Being one of just 30 undefeated squads remaining in NCAA DI this season, the voters for several national polls continue to show their appreciation for KU’s work thus far in 2018, moving them from unranked in the preseason, into the top-25.
The Jayhawks checked in as part of the United Soccer Coaches’ poll for the third-consecutive week, getting slotted at No. 16 after moving up three spots. Kansas has now appeared in the poll in four of the last five seasons in the United Soccer Coaches’ poll. KU’s highest all-time ranking in that poll (formerly the NSCAA Coaches’ poll) was No. 6 during the 2004 season. The Jayhawks also peaked inside the top-10 during their 2014 campaign, climbing as high as No. 9. Last season, Kansas found itself among the top-25 during one week, checking in at 19th on Sept. 5. The TopDrawerSoccer rankings also have the Jayhawks receiving votes, but not quite in the top-25 list.
In the midst this season’s second road trip, the Jayhawks will look to continue their trend of relatively strong performances in matches away from Rock Chalk Park in the recent years. Kansas can hang its hat on an impressive record in road games over the past four years. Including the Jayhawks’ draw at Cincinnati on Thursday night, KU has played 41 regular-season games away from Rock Chalk Park since the start of the 2014 season, amassing a record of 20-13-8, which included a 4-4-2 record last year. KU has posted a .500 record or better in regular-season road or neutral matches every year since 2014.
LET’S GET DEFENSIVE
In their first five matches of 2018, the Jayhawks have once again proved to be a stout defensive team, carrying over the trend from their last several seasons. Kansas currently boasts a goals-against average of 0.26 this season, which encompasses five shutouts in its first seven outings. The Jayhawks are allowing less than seven opponent shots per match, which includes four games that they held their opponents to seven or few attempts.
KU has already put together an impressive shutout streak to start this season. Kansas went 354-straight minutes without conceding a goal over its first four matches. The figure is the eighth-longest shutout streak in program history and marked the fourth time over the last five seasons the Jayhawks have tallied an opponent scoreless streak of 300 minutes or longer.
MCCLURE GARNERS NATIONAL, BIG 12 WEEKLY AWARDS
Following another stellar weekend that saw her help Kansas soccer to a pair of victories, junior forward Katie McClure was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, the league announced Tuesday. McClure tallied a pair of goals as well as an assist in the Jayhawks’ wins over Utah and No. 25 Butler. It marked the second time McClure has earned the honor this season, as she also garnered the award following the opening week of the season on Aug. 21.
McClure, who hails from Wichita, Kansas, scored both goals in her team’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over Utah on Friday night, including the golden goal in the seventh minute of the double overtime period. She followed that up with another strong outing against No. 25 Butler on Sunday night, tallying an assist on Elise Reina’s eventual game-winner in the 85th minute.
The junior leads the league in points with 13 (five goals, three assists), and becomes the first Jayhawk to earn multiple Big 12 weekly awards in a single season since Liana Salazar, who was the conference’s offensive player of the week twice in 2014.
EXPERIENCE VS. YOUTH
The 2018 edition of the Jayhawks is 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 freshmen, who the coaches are leaning on to contribute almost immediately. The squad will feature four seniors, two of whom are in their fifth year.
BIG CLEATS TO FILL
The 2018 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 played over 17,800 minutes in the Crimson and Blue. That Jayhawk senior class amassed a record of 44-30-9. This made it the eighth class in program history to have achieved 43 or more wins in a four-year span.
FIRST TO SCORE, WINS GALORE
Dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, now at 130 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 130-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 60-2-8 in those games (91.4 winning %), which included a 6-1-2 mark last year and already a 4-0-1 mark in 2018. The Jayhawks’ loss at BYU on Sept. 18 of 2017 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 Utah last Friday night marked just the sixth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 130-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 6-46-4 in those games over the last five seasons, which included eight of KU’s 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 her 13 career assists also have her at No. 12 on KU’s all-time assists list.
FEEDING ON NONCON
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 42-19-9 mark in its 70 regular-season nonconference matches (66%), which includes a 30-12-6 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 117-67. Mark Francis has led KU to a winning record in noncon in 18 of his 19 seasons in Lawrence and is 122-51-13 in regular-season nonconference games.
JAYHAWKS PICKED SIXTH IN BIG 12 PRESEASON COACHES’ POLL
Kansas soccer was predicted to finish sixth in the 2018 league standings according to the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll which was released Aug. 8. 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. 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, respectively. Kansas State and Iowa State rounded out the poll in the ninth and 10th.
The Jayhawks will be back in Lawrence for their final nonconference home game of the regular-season on Friday, Sept. 14 to take on Saint Louis. Kickoff from Rock Chalk is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+. KU will then hit the road for the final time in nonconference play when they meet the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies on Sunday, Sept. 16 in College Station, Texas. KU will take on their former Big 12 foe at 1 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.
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