Top-25 tilt on tap for No. 19 Kansas, No. 25 Butler Sunday
Junior Addisyn Merrick
|Game 6: vs. Butler|
|Rock Chalk Park (2,500)|
|Shot on Goal %||.372||.438|
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 19 Kansas Jayhawks will welcome their second top-25 opponent to Rock Chalk Park this season when the No. 25 Butler Bulldogs visit Lawrence on Sunday, Sept. 2. KU, out to its best start in four seasons, will face a Butler squad that is also undefeated, sitting at 4-0-0. The Jayhawks and Bulldgos 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’ win over Utah Friday closed out its fifth unbeaten August since 2008. In 40 matches played in August since that season, KU has amassed a record of 30-7-3, including a 15-3-3 mark since 2014.
- A win or a draw against the Bulldogs Sunday would give KU its first unbeaten start to a season following six games since 2014 and the third time in head coach Mark Francis’ 20 seasons in Lawrence.
- Forward Katie McClure has kicked off her junior year with five goals and a pair of assists, making her just the second Jayhawk in the last 10 seasons to tally 12 or more points through her first five games of a season (Liana Salazar posted 13 points (6 goals, 1 assist) in 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 five opponents to an average of seven 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 best start to a season since 2014. The Jayhawks have conceded just two goals through their first five outings and have been led on the offensive end by junior Katie McClure, who has posted five goals and a pair of assists, with her 12 points leading the Big 12. The Jayhawks’ 4-0-1 start marks the fifth time KU has been unbeaten through its first five 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 five matches, and averaging nearly six of those shots on target per match. Eleven different Jayhawks have at tallied least two shots this season and seven 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 35 shots in the Jayhawks’ first five outings. Those five KU opponents only put nine of those 35 strikes on frame. Freshman Sarah Peters was the starting keeper in all five outings, keeping a clean sheet in three of those appearances and collected seven saves for a .778 save percentage.
LAST TIME OUT
A pair of clutch goals from junior forward Katie McClure lifted No. 19 Kansas soccer over Utah, 2-1, on Friday night in a double-overtime thriller at Rock Chalk Park. The victory kept the Jayhawks unbeaten start to 2018 intact, now at 4-0-1. The loss dropped the Utes to 1-2-1.
As the final minutes ticked by with neither team having scored a goal, both Kansas and Utah notched goals to keep the score even at 1-1. Utah struck first in the 86th minute as senior forward Hailey Skolmoski knocked in the first goal of the evening and the first of her season. The Ute forward took advantage of a low clearance from KU keeper Sarah Peters, heading the ball back into the KU goal.
But the Jayhawks didn’t panic, responding with the equalizer less than one minute later. McClure tied the game with her four a goal of 2018 in the 87th minute after senior Kaycie Young found her open at the top of the Utah 18-yard box.
Neither squad was able to score in the first overtime, but the Jayhawks came close on multiple opportunities. Seven minutes into the second overtime, McClure was finally able to break through. This time, off a pinpoint pass from Ceri Holland. McClure corralled the pass and sent it just inside the far post to give the Jayhawks the golden goal and the victory.
ABOUT THE BUTLER
Butler, located in Indianapolis, Indiana with an enrollment of 5,097, enters the match with the Jayhawks Sunday at 4-0-0 after its first 1-0 win at Dayton Thursday night. The 25th-ranked Bulldogs are also coming off a statement 4-1 win over previously-ranked Notre Dame on Aug. 26. Butler exploded with four goals against the Irish, including one within the first 90 seconds of the game.
Senior Paige Monaghan leads the Bulldogs with two goals and four assists already this season and has tallied 22 of her team’s 73 shots. Freshman forward Anja Savich has tallied three goals in her team’s first four outings to go along with an assist. Butler averages over 18 shots per game and puts 44 percent of those on target.
On the defensive end of the field, BU has been strong in its first four outings, allowing just a pair of goals and holding its opponents to 7.5 shots per game. The Bulldogs have split time between two keepers so far this season with RS-Jr. Hannah Luedtke and sophomore Leonie Doege seeing time in all four matches this season. Together they have combined for 11 saves, a save percentage of .846 and a goals-against average of 0.50.
Tari St. John is in her 13th season and Rob Alman is in his seventh season as co-head coaches of the BU program in 2018. The duo has overseen the Bulldogs transition to the BIG EAST Conference after previously competing in the Atlantic 10 Conference and the Horizon League. St. John and Alman have guided Butler to six-straight winning seasons and compiled an overall record of 76-36-17 to post the best winning percentage of any coach in program history.
With their win Friday night 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.
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 five 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 0.37 this season, which encompasses three shutouts to open the year. The Jayhawks are allowing just seven 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 128 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 128-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 Utah Friday night marked just the sixth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 128-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 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 41-19-8 mark in its 68 regular-season nonconference matches (66%), which includes a 29-12-5 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 116-67. Mark Francis has led KU to a winning record in noncon in 18 of his 19 seasons in Lawrence and is 121-51-12 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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