No. 18 Jayhawks to face No. 4 Aggies Sunday
Senior Kaycie Young
|Game 9: vs. Texas A&M|
|1 p.m. (CT)|
|Ellis Field (3,500)|
|Shot on Goal %||.398||.423|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 18 Kansas Jayhawks close out nonconference play with a bang when they journey to College Station, Texas to meet former Big 12 foe Texas A&M on Sunday, Sept. 16. The Jayhawks and the No. 4 Aggies are two of just 17 undefeated teams remaining in the NCAA. Kickoff from Ellis Field is set for 1 p.m., on SEC Network+.
- 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 nine matches, which breaks the previous program record, previously set in 2014.
- Senior Grace Hagan tallied three goals in KU’s 3-2 win over Saint Louis Friday night. It marked the first hat trick of Hagan’s career and the first by a Jayhawk since 2008.
- A win or a draw against the Aggies Sunday would give KU its first unbeaten start to a season following nine games in program history.
- 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 tied for second in the Big 12 so far this season.
- The KU defense has amassed a goals-against average of 0.46 after its first eight outings, a number that ranks the Jayhawks second in the Big 12 and 16h in the NCAA.
- Staying on defense, the KU back line has held its first eight opponents to an average of 6.8 shots per game, which includes five matches when the Jayhawks conceded seven or fewer shots. Kansas’ five shutouts are the 10th-most in the nation.
- The Jayhawks will take the pitch on Sunday against its third top-25 opponent of 2018. KU is 4-4-0 in its last eight outings against ranked foes, which includes a 2-0 mark already this year.
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 four goals through their first eight 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 second in the Big 12. The Jayhawks’ 6-0-2 start marks the second time KU has been unbeaten through its first eight matches under head coach Mark Francis.
In addition to McClure, the Jayhawk offense enjoyed an effective start to 2018, averaging nearly 15 shots in its first eight matches, and averaging nearly six of those shots on target per match. Five different Jayhawks have tallied double-digit shots 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 four goals and allowing only 54 shots in the Jayhawks’ first eight outings. Those eight KU opponents only put 15 of those 54 strikes on frame. Freshman Sarah Peters was the starting keeper in all eight matches, keeping a clean sheet in five of those appearances and has collected 11 saves for a .733 save percentage.
LAST TIME OUT
Despite being faced with an early 2-0 deficit, senior forward Grace Hagan’s first-career hat trick powered the No. 18 Kansas Jayhawks to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Saint Louis Billikens Friday night at Rock Chalk Park.
The match began on a sour note for a Kansas team looking to extend the longest unbeaten streak in program history, now at nine matches. The Billikens quickly put the Jayhawks on their heels, finding the back of the KU net twice within a minute, slotting in back-to-back goals in the 19th and 20th minutes.
The Billiken advantage was short-lived however as Hagan’s first goal of the season came just two minutes later, to cut KU’s deficit in half. Sophomore Ceri Holland played a free kick service to the heart of the Saint Louis box, where Hagan headed it home. It only took 10 more minutes for the Jayhawks to knot up the score, once again with Hagan strike. The senior out of Wichita let loose a shoot from 20 yards out that deflected off a SLU defender and past Billiken goalkeeper Olivia Silverman.
After the intermission, Hagan struck again just over seven minutes into the second frame. Another feed from Holland set her up for a shot from the top of the SLU 18-yard box. Her attempt made it through the legs of Silverman and across the goal line to not only give the Jayhawks the lead, but give Hagan the first hat trick of her career.
ABOUT THE AGGIES
Located in College Station, Texas with an enrollment of 51,406, Texas A&M enters Sunday’s match in the midst of its best start in program history, now at 9-0-0 after a 3-0 win over LSU on Friday night. The Aggies, ranked No. 4 in the latest United Soccer Coaches’ poll, returned nine starters and 16 letterwinners from the squad that went 18-2-2 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
TAMU’s offense has been active during its five weeks of 2018, scoring 26 goals in nine games and averaging over 20 shots per game. The Aggies have put 42 percent of their tries on target. Texas A&M has seen Seven different players already net multiple goals and has seen nine different players tally double-digit shots. Junior forward Ally Watt leads the way with seven goals, while senior Kendall Ritchie has tallied six assists.
The Aggies have already notched seven shutouts and are holding opponents to average less than 10 shots per game and only three shots on goal per match. In goal, Cosette Morche has started between the posts for each match. In nine starts, Morche has allowed two goals, made 26 saves and amassed a save percentage of .929.
Head coach G Guerrieri is currently in his 26th year at the helm of the Texas A&M program, having amassed a record of 434-136-34. Under his tutelage, Texas A&M is one of only five teams to play in every NCAA Tournament the last 23 seasons. Guerrieri has led the Maroon and White to 14 Sweet Sixteens, six Elite Eights and the 2014 NCAA Women’s College Cup.
LET’S TALK UNBEATEN STREAKS
The Jayhawks are currently in the middle of the longest unbeaten streaks in program history. Dating back to the end of last season, Kansas has put together a stretch of nine matches without a loss, a mark which broke the program’s previous record set in 2014. The win over Saint Louis on Friday night surpassed that 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 Aggies Sunday would put this year’s Jayhawks alone atop the program record books with 10-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 .875 winning percentage at the same point of their seasons, featured a potent offense, scoring 1.75 goals per match. While the offenses for each squad were good, the two teams’ defenses were even better. Both teams conceded just less than five goals through their first eight matches which went along with five shutouts. Each back line also allowed less than 10 opponent shots per match 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 four other KU teams that suffered one or fewer losses during the first eight games of the season.
The Jayhawks’ early success bodes well for the bunch, as three of those past four KU teams went on to make the NCAA Tournament and posted 15 or more victories. In two of those seasons, Kansas logged top-three finishes in the final Big 12 standings as well.
ROLLING THROUGH THE RANKINGS
Being one of just 17 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 ranked at No. 24.
In the midst this season’s third 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 Sept. 6, 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 eight matches of 2018, the Jayhawks have once again proven to be a stout defensive team, carrying over the trend from their last several seasons. Kansas currently boasts a goals-against average of 0.46 this season, which encompasses five shutouts in its first eight outings. The Jayhawks are allowing less than seven opponent shots per match, which includes five 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 four or fewer goals in its first eight matches of a season. The 2004 team, which went on to claim the Big 12 regular-season title, conceded just two opponent goals in its first eight outings that 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 131 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 131-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 Saint Louis on Sept. 14 marked just the seventh victory for the Jayhawks in that same 131-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 7-46-4 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 21 career goals currently rank her eighth 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 43-19-9 mark in its 71 regular-season nonconference matches (67%), which includes a 31-12-6 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 120-69. Mark Francis has led KU to a winning record in noncon in 18 of his 19 seasons in Lawrence and is 123-51-13 in regular-season nonconference games.
The Jayhawks will start Big 12 play on Friday, Sept. 21 when the Oklahoma Sooners visit Lawrence. KU and OU will kick off at Rock Chalk Park at 7 p.m. in the match that will be televised on ESPN+. Two days later, Kansas will host the defending league champion Oklahoma State on Sunday, Sept. 23. The contest will be KU’s annual Jayhawks for a Cure match and is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on ESPN+.
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