Rocky Mountain High: Jayhawks Dispatch of Denver to Move to 6-0
DENVER – An early goal off the foot of sophomore Morgan Williams was all that was needed to give the Kansas soccer team its best start to a season in a decade. The Jayhawks shutout Denver, 2-0, at CIBER Field Sunday afternoon with a pair of first-half goals to go to 6-0 to start the year, the first time KU has done so since 2004.
“This wasn’t the prettiest game for us in terms of how we played,” said head coach Mark Francis. “The altitude was definitely a factor today so we didn’t look as sharp. We got a little fortunate on each of the goals but we created some chances ourselves, too. There’s always going to be games where you don’t play your best but you still have to be able to battle and fight and we did that today.”
For the second time this season, Kansas put in a goal within the first 15 minutes. Williams, who started as the right-back defender, capitalized on a poor Denver play back to the keeper 14:55 into the match. The Carrollton, Texas native intercepted the pass and sent in a right-footed shot that got past the DU keeper and into the back of the net.
The goal was the first of Morgan’s career and put her team on top for the sixth-straight match.
Kansas continued to put on the pressure over the rest of the first half, outshooting the Pioneers by a tally of 9-5 over the first 40 minutes. Freshman Miriam Melugin almost joined Williams as a first-time goal scorer in the 33rd minute with a strong strike from 30 yards out. Her shot looked to be headed for home but slammed off the crossbar, coming dangerously close to getting her team up, 2-0.
Justice was done just over 10 minutes later when DU fell victim to an own goal. Senior Haley Yearout sent in a corner kick from the right side that made its way all the way to the far post. A Pioneer defender attempted to head the ball away but instead sent it into the back of her own net, putting the visitors up 2-0 just before the halftime whistle.
The Pioneers came out of the locker room with some urgency in the second half but the Jayhawks withstood each DU attack. Denver outshot KU 8-4 in the final frame, however it was Kansas that came closest to putting in the game’s third goal.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Liana Salazar sent forward a pass to Ali Kimura who had gotten in behind the DU defense. The senior nearly put in her fourth goal of the year but was unable to keep her shot low enough after it sailed just high.
Kansas goalkeeper Kaitlyn Stroud had a relatively uneventful day between the posts for the Jayhawks. She was forced into action three times over the final 45 minutes for a trio of low effort saves.
As the clock ticked down the final moments of action junior Courtney Dickerson found the woodwork with a screaming shot from outside the 18-yard box. Dickerson’s shot was just inches wide as it hit the left post.
The final whistle sounded two minutes later and Kansas was awarded its sixth victory and the second shutout of the year.
Liana Salazar was forced to endure her first game this season without scoring a goal but still led the team in shots, along with sophomore Ashley Pankey, after each tallied three apiece. Stroud picked up the seventh shutout of her career in goal for KU, and her 23 career victories ties her for third among KU goalkeepers all-time.
Kansas’ win marks the second time in program history the Jayhawks have started 6-0 and also ties the program’s seconds-longest winning streak at any point in the season. Kansas has also yet to trail in a game this year, having logged 452-striaght minutes without falling behind in a match.
The Jayhawks will return home for a pair of games next weekend. On Friday, Sept. 12 Cal State Northridge will journey to Lawrence for a 5 p.m. kickoff. Two days later UMKC will hit the pitch against the Jayhawks for a 1 p.m. kickoff to be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and ESPN3. Both matches will be held at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex.
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