No. 19 Jayhawks welcome Utes to Lawrence Friday
Junior Katie McClure
|Game 5: vs. Utah|
|Rock Chalk Park (2,500)|
|Shot on Goal %||.355||.400|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 19 Kansas Jayhawks will try to close out an unbeaten August when they welcome the Utah Utes to Rock Chalk Park on Aug. 31. KU, out to its best start in four seasons, will face its third-straight Pac-12 squad following a win and a draw against Oregon State and Oregon last weekend. The Jayhawks and Utes are slated to kickoff at 7 p.m. on ESPN+.
- The Jayhawks found themselves ranked in the United Soccer Coaches poll for the second-straight week, dropping one spot to No. 19. It marks the fourth season in the last five that Kansas has made an appearance in the NCAA’s top-25 rankings.
- With the release of this week’s national rankings, 10 of KU’s 19 regular-season opponents find themselves either ranked or receiving votes in the coaches poll. The number includes seven Big 12 opponents as well as this Sunday’s foe, Butler, who checked in at No. 25.
- Kansas will look to close out its fifth unbeaten August since 2008 on Friday night. In 39 matches played in August since that season, KU has amassed a record of 29-7-3, including a 14-3-3 mark since 2014.
- A win or a draw against the Utes Friday would give KU its first unbeaten 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, making her just the third Jayhawk in the last 10 seasons to tally eight or more points through her first four games of a season (Jamie Fletcher-2011, Liana Salazar-2014).
- Freshman goalkeeper Sarah Peters and 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 four opponents to an average of 5.8 shots per game, which includes just two shots conceded to Oregon State in the Jayhawks’ 3-0 win on Aug. 24.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
Kansas is ranked No. 19 by the United Soccer Coaches following its second-straight unbeaten weekend that saw it pick up a win and a draw against Oregon State and Oregon, respectively, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Jayhawks have conceded just one goal through their first four outings and have been led on the offensive end by junior Katie McClure, who has posted three goals and a pair of assists. The Jayhawks’ 3-0-1 start is the team’s best since 2014 and the fifth time KU has been unbeaten through its first four 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 four games, and averaging five of those shots on target per match. Eleven different Jayhawks have at tallied least two shots this season and seven different players posting 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 one goal and allowing only 23 shots in the Jayhawks’ first four outings. Those four KU opponents only put seven of those 23 strikes on frame. Freshman Sarah Peters was the starting keeper in all four outings, keeping a clean sheet in three of those appearances and collected six saves for a .857 save percentage.
LAST TIME OUT
A late second-half goal by Oregon forced No. 18 Kansas to settle for a 1-1 draw August 26 inside Nebraska’s Hibner Stadium. Senior midfielder Kaycie Young notched her first goal as a Jayhawk in the opening half, before Oregon junior Emma Eddy notched the equalizer with just six minutes left in regulation.
Kansas’ offense was paced by Young, who notched her first goal as a Jayhawk in the 25th minute. Sophomore Isabella Cavalcante played a long ball toward the top of the Oregon penalty area before Young ran onto the pass and chipped it past the Duck keeper.
The Jayhawks continued to pace the game offensively well into the second half with nine shots to the Ducks’ four. Oregon’s first shot of the game didn’t come until the 67th minute. As time dwindled down and it looked as Kansas would win its fourth-straight game, Oregon’s junior midfielder Emma Eddy ran onto a pass into the heart of the KU box before slotting it past Jayhawk keeper Sarah Peters to even the score at 1-1 with just over six minutes remaining in regulation.
Neither team was able to take advantage from that point on as both the Jayhawks and Ducks went scoreless in the two 10-minute overtime periods. The 1-1 finish was the first draw of the 2018 season for the Jayhawks.
ABOUT THE UTES
Utah, located in Salt Lake City with an enrollment of 31,660, enters the match with the Jayhawks Friday at 1-1-1 after its first three outings of 2018. Most recently, Utah played to a 1-1 draw at UC Irvine on Aug. 26. The Utes return seven starters from last year’s squad including All-Pac-12 performers Paola van der Veen, Hailey Skolmoski and Tavia Leachman. Utah has 16 players back who saw action last season and added 12 newcomers to the roster.
The Utah offense was active over its first three outings of 2018, averaging over 13 shots per match and finding the back of the net three times. Van der Veen is tops on her squad with 10 shots, while she, freshman Makayla Christensen and Ireland Dunn have each posted the team’s three goals. Fourteen different Utes had already tallied at least one shot this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Utah has allowed two goals with opponents able to get off 8.7 shots per match. In goal, junior Carly Nelson got the start in her team’s first three matches, collecting 12 saves for a .857 save percentage and a 0.62 goals-against average.
Head coach Rich Manning is currently in his 17th year at the helm of the Utah program, having amassed a record of 171-118-44. He has coached the Utes to a NCAA Tournament berth in seven of his years in Salt Lake City. Manning directed Utah to three Mountain West Conference regular-season championships and a pair of league tournament titles.
The Jayhawks will try to put the finishing touches on another stellar month of August against the Utes, which the team has grown accustomed to over the past 10 years. A win or a draw against the Utes would give 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 29-7-3 (.782 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 1.9 goals per game and has amassed a goal differential of +40 in August. The Jayhawks have also posted 19 shutouts in those 39 August outings to go along with a 0.80 goals-against average.
Following the unbeaten start to the Jayhawks’ season, the voters for several national polls showed their appreciation for KU’s 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 last week and now No. 19 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.
After last weekend’s first road trip of the season, the Jayhawks continued 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 and draw against Oregon State and Oregon, KU has played 40 regular-season games away from Rock Chalk Park since the start of the 2014 season, amassing a record of 20-13-7, 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 four 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 0.24 this season, which encompasses three shutouts to open the year. The Jayhawks are allowing less than six opponent shots per match, which includes both KU’s outings last weekend vs. Oregon State and Oregon. The Beavers and Ducks combined for eight shots against the KU back line, just three of which were on frame.
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
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 Aug. 17 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.
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 127 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 127-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 59-2-8 in those games (91.3 winning %), which included a 6-1-2 mark last year and already a 3-0-1 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 Texas on Oct. 13 of last year marked just the fifth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 127-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 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 40-19-8 mark in its 67 regular-season nonconference matches (66%), which includes a 28-12-5 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 114-66. Mark Francis has led KU to a winning record in noncon in 18 of his 19 seasons in Lawrence and is 120-51-12 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.
Kansas will be back on the road next weekend for a pair of contests. The Jayhawks will meet the Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Gettler Stadium for a 6 p.m. (CT) kickoff. KU will then head to Pittsburgh for a match with the Panthers on Sunday, Sept. 9. First touch from Ambrose Urbanic Field is slated for 12 p.m. (CT).
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