No. 18 Jayhawks and Ducks to battle Sunday in Lincoln
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 18 Kansas Jayhawks will look to extend the program’s best start in four seasons when they meet the Oregon Ducks on Sunday, Aug. 26 inside Nebraska’s Hibner Stadium. The Jayhawks and Ducks will face off at 10 a.m. in the match that will be streamed on Big Ten Network Plus.
- The Jayhawks checked in at No. 18 in this week’s United Soccer Coaches poll, making it the fourth season in the last five that Kansas has made an appearance in the NCAA’s top-25 rankings.
- KU is coming off opening weekend victories over then-No. 18 Pepperdine and South Dakota State. The victory over the Waves on opening night marked the Jayhawks’ third win over a top-25 team in its last seven outings at Rock Chalk Park, dating back to last season.
- A win over the Ducks Sunday would give KU its first 4-0-0 start to a season since 2014 and the fifth time in head coach Mark Francis’ 20 seasons in Lawrence.
- Forward Katie McClure has kicked off her junior year with three goals and a pair of assists. Last week, she earned her Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week accolades as well as TopDrawerSoccer’s Player of the Week award.
- Freshman goalkeeper Sarah Peters picked up shutouts in her first three collegiate starts. That made her the first true freshman goalkeeper to tally a clean sheet in her first three career start for the Jayhawks.
- Kansas returns 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.
- Head coach Mark Francis is entering his 20th season at the helm in Lawrence, boasting a 208-157-31 record with KU. He is just seven victories from hitting the 250-plateu in career coaching wins as he holds a 243-182-32 record in his 23 years of collegiate coaching.
- 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.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
Kansas is ranked No. 18 by the United Soccer Coaches following opening weekend victories over then-No. 18 Pepperdine and South Dakota State, which it followed up with a 3-0 win over Oregon State Friday. The Jayhawks have yet to concede a goal in 2018 and have been led on the offensive end by junior Katie McClure, who has posted three goals and a pair of assists in the first three matches of the season. The Jayhawks’ 3-0 start is the team’s best since 2014 and the sixth time KU has gotten off to a perfect start through its first three matches under head coach Mark Francis.
In addition to McClure, the Jayhawk offense enjoyed an effective start to 2018, averaging 14 shots in its three games, and averaging five of those shots on target per match. The Jayhawks saw 13 players tally at least one shot in their first three outings and five different players post 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 yet to concede a goal and allowing just 17 shots in the Jayhawks’ first three outings. Those three KU opponents only put four of those 17 strikes on frame. Freshman Sarah Peters was the starting keeper in all three games, keeping a clean sheet in each and collected four saves in her first three collegiate outings.
LAST TIME OUT
The dynamic duo of junior Kansas forwards Katie McClure and Taylor Christie were too much for Oregon State to handle Friday night inside Nebraska’s Barbara Hibner Stadium. The tandem combined to score each of the No. 18 Jayhawks’ three goals in the first half, as KU held on for the 3-0 victory.
McClure wasted no time continuing her hot start to the season. After receiving a pass from junior Elise Reina, McClure was able to shoot past the defenders and score her third goal of the season to give KU an early 1-0 lead just 17 minutes into the match. Then it was Christie’s turn to get on the scoreboard. Just over 10 minutes later, McClure sucked the defense away from Christie before feeding her teammate for her second goal of the year at in the 28th minute. Christie added her second goal of the night in the 39th minute after a steal in the OSU penalty area. The goal brought Christie and McClure into a tie for the team lead with three goals apiece to start the 2018 season.
With the victory, the Jayhawks improved to 3-0-0 on the season, which is their first 3-0 start since 2014. KU rallied off eight in a row to begin its 2014 campaign.
ABOUT THE DUCKS
Oregon, which is receiving votes in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll, is coming off a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers Friday night in Lincoln. The Ducks entered the 2018 campaign following an 8-11-0 2017 season where they finished 11th in the Pac-12 at 2-9-0. Oregon returns 15 of 21 letterwinners from that team as well as eight of 11 starters.
The Oregon offense has been up and down through its first three outings of 2018. In their season-opener against Stony Brook, the Ducks tallied 15 shots and put six of those on frame. But in their two most recent outings against Clemson (W, 1-0) and Nebraska (L, 0-2) UO combined to tally a total of eight shots and five on goal. Senior forward Marissa Everett has notched two goals in her first three outings, both of which came on her lone two shots of the year. Freshman forward Zoe Hasenauer leads her team with five shots.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ducks have allowed three goals with opponents able to get off 9.7 shots per match. In goal, senior Halla Hinriksdottir got the start in her team’s first three matches this season, collecting four saves for a .571 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average.
Kat Mertz is starting her sixth season as the head coach at Oregon. Mertz has guided the Ducks to a 37-57-7 record during her time in Eugene.
Following a pair of opening-weekend wins, both of which were shutouts, and one of which was over the 18th-ranked team in the nation, the voters for several national polls showed their appreciation for the Jayhawks’ work thus far in 2018, moving them from unranked and into the top-25.
Kansas made its fourth appearance in five seasons in the United Soccer Coaches’ poll when it posted KU at No. 18 this week. 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.
McCLURE GARNERS NATIONAL, BIG 12 WEEKLY AWARDS
Junior forward Katie McClure claimed a pair of accolades following her stellar performances in Kansas soccer’s two opening-weekend victories. McClure was named the Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Week, while also earning Player of the Week honors from TopDrawerSoccer. The Big 12 weekly award was McClure’s second after being named the league’s Freshman of the Week in 2016 and became the first Jayhawk since Liana Salazar in 2015 to garner Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week accolades.
The Wichita, Kansas product was also named to TopDrawerSoccer’s 11-player Team of the Week, heading up the list as the outlet’s Player of the Week.
McClure was a key piece in both the Jayhawks’ wins during the opening weekend of the regular season. She began the weekend by scoring the eventual game-winning goal in KU’s 1-0 upset over No. 18 Pepperdine Friday night in Lawrence. Two days later, she tallied an assist on what would be the game-winning goal in the Jayhawks’ 3-0 victory over South Dakota State. She also sent in her second goal in as many games in the second half of the match with the Jackrabbits.
With this weekend’s first road trip of the 2018 season, 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’ win over Oregon State Friday, KU has played 40 regular-season games away from Rock Chalk Park since the start of the 2014 season, amassing a record of 20-13-6, which included a 4-4-2 record last year. The Jayhawks hope they can continue this trend over the next month, with four of their next seven matches away from Lawrence.
LET’S GET DEFENSIVE
In their first three 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 0.00 this season, which encompasses three shutouts to open the year. The Jayhawks are allowing less than six opponent shots per match, which includes the Oregon State match that saw KU hold the Beavers to just two shots.
KU is already in the midst of an impressive shutout streak early this season. Kansas has 270-straight minutes without conceding a goal. The figure marks the sixth time over the last five seasons the Jayhawks have tallied an opponent scoreless streak of 270 minutes or longer.
EXPERIENCE VS. YOUTH
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 four seniors, two of whom are in their fifth year.
BIG CLEATS TO FILL
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 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 126 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 126-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 59-2-7 in those games, which included a 6-1-2 mark last year and already a 3-0-0 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 Texas on Oct. 13 of last year marked just the fifth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 126-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 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 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 40-19-7 mark in its 66 regular-season nonconference matches (66%), which includes a 28-12-4 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 113-65. Mark Francis has led KU to a winning record in noncon in 18 of his 19 seasons in Lawrence and is 120-51-11 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 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 return to Lawrence next weekend for a pair of matches at Rock Chalk Park. KU will welcome in the Utah Utes on Friday, Aug. 31 for a 7 p.m. kickoff before the Butler Bulldogs come to visit on Sunday, Sept. 2, also at 7 p.m. Both matches will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
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