No. 18 Jayhawks set to battle Billikens Friday in Lawrence
Sophomore Kathryn Castro
|Game 8: vs. Saint Louis|
|Rock Chalk Park (2,500)|
|Shot on Goal %||.364||.449|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 18 Kansas Jayhawks return to Lawrence for their final home match of the nonconference season when they welcome the Saint Louis Billikens to Rock Chalk Park on Friday, Sept. 14. KU, one of just 20 undefeated teams remaining in the NCAA, will kick off against SLU at 7 p.m. on ESPN+.
- The Jayhawks found themselves ranked in the United Soccer Coaches poll for the fourth-straight week, checking in at No. 18. It marks KU’s longest stint in the top-25 since 2014.
- KU is in the midst of its longest undefeated streak in program history. Dating back to the final match of last season, the Jayhawks are unbeaten in their last eight matches, which ties the program record, previously set in 2014.
- Kansas is 25-12-2 in its last 39 regular-season home matches. Six of the Jayhawks’ next eight games will be played in the friendly confines of Rock Chalk Park.
- A win or a draw against the Billikens Friday 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 has amassed a goals-against average of 0.26 after its first seven outings, a number that ranks the Jayhawks first in the Big 12 and eighth in the NCAA.
- 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. Kansas’ five shutouts are the 10th-most in the nation.
- 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. 18 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 Sept. 6 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 BILLIKENS
Located in St. Louis, Missouri with an enrollment of 12,949, SLU enters Friday’s match with a 4-2-1 record after winning both its matches last weekend. Saint Louis returned 10 starters and 20 letterwinners from the squad that went 15-3-2 and finished second in the Atlantic 10 in 2017.
SLU has had a potent offense during its first four weeks of action, scoring 14 goals in seven games and averaging over 22 shots per game. The Billikens have also put nearly 45 percent of their tries on target. Saint Louis has seen eight different players already net at least one goal and has seen 13 different players tally five or more shots. Junior forward Alyssa Seitzer leads the way with four goals and an assist, while freshman midfielder Hanna Friedrich has posted three assists.
SLU has already notched four shutouts and has allowed only two goals in its first seven matches. Billiken opponents have averaged five shots per game and only three shots on goal per match. In goal, Olivia Silverman has started between the posts for each match. In seven starts, Silverman has allowed four goals, made 16 saves and amassed a save percentage of .800.
Head coach Katie Shields is currently in her sixth year at the helm of the Saint Louis program, having amassed a record of 55-38-10. Shields, who served as a Billiken assistant coach in 2012, was named the third head coach in program history on Jan. 15, 2013.
LET’S TALK UNBEATEN STREAKS
The Jayhawks are currently in the middle of one of the longest unbeaten streaks in program history. Dating back to the end of last season, Kansas has put together a stretch of eight matches without a loss, a mark which ties the program’s all-time record. The draw against Cincinnati on Thursday, Sept. 6 tied the 2014 team, which dished out eight-straight wins to start its season. KU’s current streak began with a 1-1 draw to TCU at the Big 12 Championship to close out the 2017 campaign.
A win or a draw against the Billikens Friday would put this year’s Jayhawks alone atop the program record books with nine-straight undefeated matches.
This year’s Kansas squad is bearing a striking resemblance to another notable KU team, perhaps the most successful in the program’s history. The 2004 Jayhawks won a program-record 18 games and claimed the school’s first and only Big 12 regular-season title. That team’s success is something many KU squads have attempted to replicate and this year’s team is doing well so far.
A quick comparison of both teams’ stat sheets at the same point in their respective seasons show some remarkable similarities. Each team, which posted a .857 winning percentage at the same point of their seasons, featured a potent offense, scoring over 1.5 goals per match. While the offenses for each squad were good, the two teams’ defenses were even better. Both teams conceding just two goals through their first seven matches which went along with five shutouts. Each back line also allowed less than 10 opponent shots per much over the first four weeks of their campaigns.
HOT START HAWKS
The impressive early performance in 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 suffered one or fewer losses during the first seven games of the season. That 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 as well.
ROLLING THROUGH THE RANKINGS
Being one of just 20 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 for the last four-consecutive weeks.
The Jayhawks checked in as part of the United Soccer Coaches’ poll for the third-consecutive week, getting slotted at No. 18 on Tuesday. 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 seven 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 fewer 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.
Only one other team in program history has allowed two or fewer goals in its first seven matches of a season. The 2004 team, which went on to claim the Big 12 regular-season title, also conceded just two opponent goals to start its season.
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.
With their win Aug. 31 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.
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 works through 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
With the final weekend of nonconference play on tap, 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.
KU will close out nonconference play when they meet the No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies on Sunday, Sept. 16 in College Station, Texas. KU will take on its former Big 12 foe at 1 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.
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