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LAWRENCE, Kan. – The 16th-ranked KU soccer team will return to Rock Chalk Park this Friday, Oct. 3 to take on the Oklahoma State Cowgirls. Kansas, which currently boasts the best winning percentage in the nation, will take on OSU at 7 p.m. The match will be one of five home games the Jayhawks will play at Rock Chalk Park over their final seven regular-season matches.
Over the Airwaves
Fans will be able to follow the Jayhawks in every match this year by listening to the free, live radio broadcast via leanStream on KUAthletics.com. To listen to Derek Johnson’s call, fans can visit the free online player located at KUAthletics.com/Radio.
About the Jayhawks
Kansas, who is ranked among the top-20 in the majority of the national collegiate polls, is coming of a great start to the Big 12 season after a pair of road wins last weekend over Baylor and TCU. Kansas has amassed a goal differential of +21 so far this season and has allowed just one goal in its last 652 minutes of play.
Junior Liana Salazar leads the squad with her eight goals. The mark leads the Big 12, as do her 18 points. Three other Jayhawks have tallied three or more goals. The Jayhawk offense has netted 26 goals and is tallying just under 13 shots per game. Kansas’ 26 goals are the most through the first 12 games of a season since 2008. KU is averaging just under six shots on goal per game but is managing to get almost 40 percent of those to the back of the net. Kansas attacks through several players, as 10 different Jayhawks have notched at least one goal this year and 13 different players have managed to tally four or more shots on the year.
The KU defense has been almost impregnable in its first 12 outings, allowing just five goals and limiting its opponents to just 11 shots per match. Senior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Stroud has posted a 0.36 goals against average in 11 games between the posts with the help of a league-leading .926 save percentage. Kansas has yet to allow more than one goal in a game this season.
About the Cowgirls
After starting out the year with six-straight losses, OSU has turned its season around with wins in each of its last six games. During this six-game winning streak, the Cowgirls have tallied four shutouts and have scored nine goals. Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 in fouls (11 per game), just ahead of the second-place Jayhawks, who post 10.9 fouls per game.
OSU has scored 12 total goals this year which includes five goals that have come within its last three games. The Cowgirls are notching nearly 12 shots per game and putting over 38 percent of those on frame. Junior Allie Stephenson leads the squad with four goals, however six other Cowgirls have managed to get on the score sheet so far this season.
The OSU defense has allowed 17 opponent goals in 2014, and has held four of its last five opponents scoreless. Oklahoma State opponents have posted over 15 shots per match, including six shots on goal per game. Senior goalkeeper Rosa Medina, who has played all 12 of her team’s matches in goal this year, has made 54 saves and notched four shutouts. Medina has stopped over 76 percent of the shots put on frame thus far in 2014 and is allowing 1.40 goals per 90 minutes.
Colin Carmichael is in his 10th season as the head coach at OSU. The Cowgirls are 142-48-28 during his tenure. He has led the Cowgirls to seven appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including six straight from 2006-11, and after advancing to the second round of the NCAA tourney four-straight years, the Cowgirls made back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2011. The Cowgirls have also been a dominant force in the Big 12 Conference under Carmichael as they captured four-consecutive league titles from 2008-11.
Starting Big 12 Play with a Bang
Only once before in program history has Kansas begun its conference season with two wins in its first two Big 12 games prior to last weekend. With the Jayhawks’ defeats of Baylor and TCU to open league play last weekend, the squad joined the 2001 team to be victorious in its first two games of the conference season. That 2001 squad topped Oklahoma in Lawrence before dispatching of Oklahoma State on the road, eventually finishing with a Big 12 record of 7-3-0 and finishing fourth in the conference standings. The Jayhawks’ unblemished start this year already ties KU’s conference win total from last season and brings them within a win of tying the 2011 and 2012 teams, which each won three league contests.
Fastest to 10 Wins
The Jayhawks picked up wins No. 10 and No. 11 last weekend with their victories over Baylor and TCU, which marked the first time a Kansas squad has ever gotten to double-digit victories prior to Oct. 1. The 2003 and 2004 teams, which both ended their years with a program-record 18 wins, each could only muster nine wins before the calendar rolled to the 10th month.
Save It, Stroud!
Kansas’ senior goalkeeper, Kaitlyn Stroud, is quickly putting together one of the greatest seasons a Jayhawk keeper has ever seen. The Fayetteville, Georgia native is boasting a career-low goals against average of 0.36, which leads the Big 12 and is only topped by three keepers in the NCAA who have logged more than 1,000 minutes. She has saved over 92 percent of the shots KU’s opponents have put on frame, which is also the best in the conference and ranks fifth in the nation.
Stroud is on pace to set all sorts of school records. If her stellar defense continues at this pace she’ll set new single-season bests in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts. Megan Miller (2001-04) currently holds the record in each of those categories with a GAA of 0.57, a save percentage of .881 and 11 shutouts, all of which came in 2004.
On the career goalkeeping charts, Stroud has continued to move up this year. She currently sits third on the all-time saves chart with 254 stops. Her 1.20 career goals-against average is the second-lowest by a Jayhawk and her .796 save percentage is No. 3 on the KU charts. Stroud’s 12 career shutouts rank third all-time and are just four shy of tying Julie Hanley for second on the shutouts list.
First to Score, Wins Galore
Over its past 52 games, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 52-game span, the Jayhawks have been on the losing end only once in the games which they have put in the match’s first goal. Kansas has amassed a record of 28-1-2 in those games, which includes an 11-0-0 mark this year.
On the flip side, KU hasn’t been quite as fortunate when its opponents have gotten on the board first. Kansas has not won a game in that same 52-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. The Jayhawks are 0-19-1 in those games over the last two years, including an 0-1-0 mark this year.
Turning Things Around
Just over halfway through this season, the 2014 Jayhawks have already achieved one of the best turnarounds in program history. Last season, Kansas won seven games and tied twice, while this year’s team has already picked up four more victories and still have seven regular-season games to go. The program’s best turnaround belongs to two teams, the 2001 and 2008 squads each won six more games than the year prior.
Head coach Mark Francis is no stranger to monumental turnarounds. After a 2-17 season during first season at South Alabama, Francis led the Jaguars to an 18-3-1 mark during the 1997 season. The 16-win turnaround is still the biggest in NCAA Division I soccer history.
With the release of the the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report by the NCAA this week, several good signs stick out for the Jayhawks. Kansas checked in at No. 15 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 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 non-conference play. The league tallied the second-highest ranking in the week’s RPI and boasts seven 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 six of their next seven contests will be against teams currently ranked inside the top-100 of the RPI.
Kansas’ debut among the top-30 of the first RPI last week also bodes well for the Jayhawks as 82 of the 90 teams that have been among the top-30 of the first RPI report over the last three seasons have gone on to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
An NCAA Tourney This Way Comes?
Not only did the Jayhawks’ perfect start shoot them up the conference and national rankings, but it also greatly increased their chances of earning a spot in their first NCAA Tournament since 2011. Since the 2008 season, 21 NCAA teams have begun their seasons with a perfect 8-0-0 record in their first eight games. Of those 21 teams, 18 went on to earn bids into the NCAA Tournament. Of those 18 squads that earned NCAA tourney spots, half of them managed to advance all the way to the Sweet 16.
Past Kansas teams who have had similar strong starts have also trended toward postseason play. KU’s first NCAA squad, the 2001 team, won seven of its first nine matches and eventually won a then-program best 13 games. Both the 2003 and 2004 teams were victorious in eight of their first nine games and, not only made it to the postseason tournament, but advanced to the Sweet 16 and second round, respectively.
Let’s Get Defensive
While the Jayhawk offense has been as potent as the program has seen in some time, the defense has been just as impressive. Coming off six shutouts in its last seven outings, Kansas is currently boasting a goals-against average of 0.41, the lowest in the Big 12 and the 11th-best mark in the nation. The Jayhawks have allowed just five goals on the year and no more than one in a game. KU went 298 minutes without conceding a goal from Sept. 5-19, the 11th-longest streak in school history, and is now in the middle of a 353-minute long streak, which ranks sixth in school history.
Kansas opponents’ lack of goal scoring may be attributed to the Jayhawks’ ability to keep the opposing team’s shot percentage low. Of the 134 shots KU has allowed this season, opponents are putting just over 42 percent of those on target and only getting less than nine percent of those shots on frame past goalkeeper Kaitlyn Stroud and into the back of the net.
Through its first 12 games this season, Kansas has proven itself to be an aggressive squad in terms of fouls and cautions. The Jayhawks have been whistled for 131 fouls in 2014, which equates to just under 11 fouls per match. That mark is the second-highest among Big 12 teams this year and is the highest average by a Kansas team in four seasons.
KU has also become quite familiar with the referee’s yellow card this season as the Jayhawks have been already been cautioned on 10 different occasions. This total is a stark contrast from recent Kansas squads. During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Kansas was shown yellow just 16 times, which included KU earning only one yellow throughout the entire 2012 campaign.
While this aggressive style of play may worry some, it has boded well for past Kansas squads. Four of the five Kansas teams that have advanced to the NCAA Tournament averaged 10.5 or more fouls per match and were each carded at least 12 times during their seasons.
Spreading the Wealth
The Kansas offense has shown that it could be a tough assignment for opposing defenses this year after a host of Jayhawks have made their presence known on the stat sheet. Thirteen different Jayhawks have had their hand in at least one of the Jayhawks’ 26 goals thus far in 2014, either scoring or assisting. Six additional players have managed to tally at least one shot. While Liana Salazar has notched nearly a quarter of the team’s total shots (38), no other Jayhawk has taken more than 13 percent of the team’s total shots (155) thus far. Eighteen players have combined for the remaining 117 shots.
A year ago, the KU offense was slightly more one sided as only three different players had combined for more than half of the team’s shots after the opening 12 matches.
Jayhawk Duo Earns Big 12 Weekly honors
Senior Kaitlyn Stroud and junior Liana Salazar were each recognized by the conference office Tuesday morning with the announcement of the Big 12 Player of the Week awards. Stroud was named the defensive player of the week for the third time in her career after tallying a pair of shutouts in goal for the Jayhawks last weekend. Salazar earned the league’s offensive player of the week award for the second time this season with the help of a goal and an assist in KU’s two road wins last week. The announcement marked the fifth time in Big 12 history and the first time since 2009 that two or more Jayhawks were honored in the same week.
Stroud turned in a pair of shutouts and helped lift the Jayhawks to an undefeated weekend with road wins over Baylor and TCU. The senior tallied seven saves in KU’s 1-0 victory over the Bears Friday, five of which came in the first half. She then backed up that outing with another seven-save performance Sunday in a 2-0 win over the Horned Frogs. Stroud’s weekend work lowered her goals-against average to 0.36 and elevated her save percentage to .926. Both figures lead the Big 12 and rank among the top-10 in the NCAA. Stroud has notched six shutouts in her last seven outings and has allowed just one goal in her last 652 minutes between the posts for KU.
Salazar sparked the Kansas offensive attack with a goal and an assist in helping the Jayhawks to a perfect opening weekend of Big 12 play. The junior midfielder got Kansas’ weekend off to a good start when she headed in the eventual game-winner in the 19th minute against Baylor. The goal was her eighth of the year which tied her for the Big 12 lead. Salazar then aided in teammate Jaime Fletcher’s game-winner against TCU Sunday afternoon. Salazar connected with Fletcher in the seventh minute to help net the first of the Jayhawks’ two goals on the day. Salazar’s outing helped Kansas put an end to TCU’s six-game unbeaten streak and move to the top of the Big 12 table after the first weekend of action.
This Day in Kansas Soccer History
OCTOBER 3, 1999 – First-year head coach Mark Francis picked up his first conference victory as the head man in Lawrence after his Jayhawks downed the Texas Tech Red Raiders, 3-2, in Lawrence. The match was a scoreless affair until Hilla Rantala netted her third goal of the year in the 72nd minute. The Red Raiders countered less than five minutes later but Kansas scored twice over the final seven minutes of regulation to earn the victory, its sixth of the year. KU goalkeeper Betsy Pollard tallied a career-high 16 saves in the win.
Kansas will return to the pitch at Rock Chalk Park to take on their final non-conference opponent of the regular season, the Missouri State Bears, on Sunday, Oct. 5. KU and MSU will kick off at 1 p.m. in the match to be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and ESPN3.
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