No. 24 Jayhawks open league play with Sooners Friday
Sophomore Ceri Holland
|Game 10: vs. Oklahoma|
|Rock Chalk Park (2,500)|
|Shot on Goal %||.377||.519|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 24 Kansas Jayhawks will look to start conference play on a high note when they hit the pitch against the Oklahoma Sooners on Friday, Sept. 21. Kickoff from Rock Chalk Park is slated for 7 p.m., and will be broadcast on ESPN+.
- The Jayhawks found themselves ranked in the United Soccer Coaches poll for the fifth-straight week, checking in at No. 24. It marks KU’s longest stint in the top-25 since 2014.
- Kansas was slotted at No. 13 in the season’s first Rating Percentage Index (RPI) released by the NCAA this week. It marked the highest RPI ranking for the Jayhawks since 2014, when KU reached No. 12.
- The Jayhawks will begin their 23rd season of Big 12 play when Oklahoma comes to town Friday. Kansas is 8-12-2 in conference openers and is 12-6-1 in Big 12 home openers.
- KU recently wrapped up its longest unbeaten streak in program history. The Sept. 16 loss at Texas A&M marked the Jayhawks’ first in its previous nine outings dating back to the final match of last season.
- Senior Grace Hagan tallied three goals in KU’s 3-2 win over Saint Louis on Sept. 14. It marked the first hat trick of Hagan’s career and the first by a Jayhawk since 2008.
- 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 0.73 after its first nine 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 nine opponents to an average of 7.3 shots per game, which includes five matches when the Jayhawks conceded seven or fewer shots. Kansas’ five shutouts are the 24th-most in the nation.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS
Kansas is ranked No. 24 by the United Soccer Coaches following its best start to a season since 2014. The Jayhawks have tallied five shutouts through their first nine 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’ 6-1-2 start marked the fifth time KU has lost one or fewer matches in the nonconference season.
In addition to McClure, the Jayhawk offense enjoyed an effective start to 2018, averaging nearly 15 shots in its first nine 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 seven goals and allowing only 66 shots in the Jayhawks’ first nine outings. Those nine KU opponents only put 23 of those 66 strikes on frame. Freshman Sarah Peters was the starting keeper in all nine matches, keeping a clean sheet in five of those appearances and has collected 15 saves for a .682 save percentage.
LAST TIME OUT
Kansas soccer dropped its first match of the season, falling 3-0 at No. 4 Texas A&M in the final outing of nonconference play Sept. 16 at Ellis Field.
The loss saw Kansas go to 6-1-2 on the year and end its nine-match unbeaten streak, a program record. Texas A&M improved to 10-0-0 in 2018, the best start in its history.
In their third top-25 game of the season, the Jayhawks went up against a torrid Aggies’ offense that proved to be a tough match-up. After nearly 40 minutes of scoreless action, TAMU struck first with a shot from 12 yards out by Aggie Abby Grace Cooper. The goal sent Kansas to the halftime locker room at a deficit for the first time this season.
KU kept within a goal for nearly 20 minutes into the second half until a pair of Texas A&M goals put the game out of reach. Addie McCain slammed in her third of the year in the 65th minute with a strike from nearly 22 yards out. Ninety seconds later, Aggie junior Ally Watt made the Jayhawks pay for a defensive miscue, sending in her eighth of the year off a rebound.
The match ended with KU and TAMU level in shots, with 12 apiece, however the Aggies managed to put eight of their 12 tries on frame, while Kansas just managed two of its shots on target.
ABOUT THE SOONERS
Located in Norman, Oklahoma with an enrollment of 31,250, the Sooners enter Friday’s match coming off a nonconference campaign that saw them post a 4-4-1 record. OU began the season with just one win in its first five outings, but has rebounded, claiming victory in three of its last four games.
The Oklahoma offense has had a solid opening month of the season, scoring a goal in each of its first nine outings, two of those games socring four goals or more. OU is averaging over 11 shots per match and is putting 52 percent of those shots on frame. Three Sooners, Kaylee Dao, Ivanna Rivas and Hailey Davidson, lead the team having scored fou goals apiece. Those three have accounted for 42 of the team’s 106 shots this season.
The Sooner defense is coming off its first shutout of 2018 and has allowed 1.41 goals per game. OU opponents are averaging over 13 shots per match and are putting 50 percent of those attempts on frame. Sophomore goalkeeper McKinley Crone has started in goal in all nine of her team’s matches. Crone has turned in a goals-against average of 1.33, a save percentage of .789 and has tallied one shutouts.
Matt Potter is in his seventh season as the head coach of the Oklahoma women’s soccer program, amassing a record of 52-62-19.
STARTING BIG 12 OFF WITH A BANG
While one game is not enough to determine the outcome of an entire season, for the Jayhawks, the Big 12 opener has been a strong indicator of how Kansas will fair in the conference over past seasons. In the last 19 years, the Jayhawks have claimed victory in their league opener on seven occasions. In those seven years, KU went on to post winning Big 12 records and finished in the top-four of the league table five times.
On the other hand, in the 10 occasions Kansas lost its conference opener, the Jayhawks finished with a winning record and among the top-four just twice. This weekend, history is on KU’s side as its kicks off league play in the friendly confines of Rock Chalk Park. During Mark Francis’ tenure, the Jayhawks are 12-6-1 in Big 12 home openers.
With the release of the first Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report by the NCAA this week, several good signs stick out for the Jayhawks. Kansas checked in at No. 13 on the list that takes numerous factors into account including strength of schedule, record against top-50 teams and home versus road record. The ranking was Kansas’ highest to start the year since the weekly RPI report became public in 2011.
This week’s report shows that the Big 12 is among the nation’s toughest conferences after the conclusion of nonconference play. The league tallied the third-highest ranking in the week’s RPI and boasts five of its nine teams inside the top-50. The conference’s high ranking also means the Jayhawks will get plenty of chances to up their national standing as seven of their next eight contests will be against teams currently ranked inside the top-100 of the RPI.
LET’S TALK UNBEATEN STREAKS
The Jayhawks recently wrapped up the longest unbeaten streak in program history. Dating back to the end of last season, Kansas 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 Sept. 14 surpassed the 2014 team, which dished out eight-straight wins to start its season. KU’s recent streak began with a 1-1 draw to TCU at the Big 12 Championship to close out the 2017 campaign.
HOME SWEET HOME
Rock Chalk Park has been a welcome site for the Jayhawks this season, with Kansas going a perfect 5-0-0 in its first five outings on its home pitch. Including this year’s hot start, the Jayhawks are 27-12-2 in matches played at home during the regular season since the start of the 2014 campaign. From 2013-14, Kansas also enjoyed an 11-match home winning streak, the longest in program history.
Since moving into Rock Chalk Park, Kansas has built a goal differential of +24 and boasts a goals-against average of 0.88, a number that includes 15 shutouts.
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 nine 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
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 five-consecutive weeks.
The Jayhawks checked in as part of the United Soccer Coaches’ poll for the fifth-consecutive week, getting slotted at No. 24 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.
LET’S GET DEFENSIVE
In their first nine 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 0.73 this season, which encompasses five shutouts in its first nine outings. The Jayhawks are allowing just over 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.
FIRST TO SCORE, WINS GALORE
Dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, now at 132 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 132-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 132-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 7-47-4 in those games over the last five seasons, which included eight of KU’s losses and a tie in 2017.
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.
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.
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 nonconference portion of the season in the rear view mirror, the Jayhawks have wrapped up another dominating preconference campaign. This season, KU made 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 43-20-9 mark in its 72 regular-season nonconference matches (66%), which includes a 31-13-6 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 120-72. Mark Francis has now led KU to a winning record in noncon in 19 of his 20 seasons in Lawrence and is 123-52-13 in regular-season nonconference games.
Kansas will host the defending league champion Oklahoma State at Rock Chalk Park 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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