Kansas Falls Short to Oklahoma at Big 12 Championship, 2-1

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Even after junior Liana Salazar pulled her team level late in the first half, the No. 3-seeded Kansas Jayhawks were unable to keep the Oklahoma Sooners off the board in the second frame, eventually falling to the No. 6 seed, 2-1, in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals Wednesday night at Swope Soccer Village.
The loss dropped the 18th-ranked Jayhawks to 15-5-0 on the year, while the Sooners moved to 10-7-3 in 2014.
“I’m disappointed for the kids because I really felt like we had a chance at winning this one,” said head coach Mark Francis, “We had a ton of opportunities in the second half but we just didn’t convert. Now we need to rest up, regroup and hopefully get ready to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
Playing each other for the second time in five days, the Jayhawks and Sooners saw another thriller that came down to the wire. Like the match played in Norman on Halloween night, Oklahoma struck first, putting in the game’s first goal near the end of the first period.
In the 35th minute, the Sooners played a ball into the box where senior midfielder Abby Hogden got a quick shot off before it was deflected by a Jayhawk defender. The loose ball went to the foot of freshman Tori Bowman, who slotted it home for the first goal of her career to give her team the advantage.
With Oklahoma eying its second 1-0 shutout of Kansas within a week, the Jayhawks quickly dashed those hopes less than six minutes later with the help of Salazar.
In the 42nd minute, Kansas earned a free kick from 22 yards out near the top of the OU box. Salazar lined up the shot and blasted it home just inside the left post to bring Kansas level with less than four minutes remaining in the first half.
The goal was Salazar’s 12th of 2014, marking the second-most ever by a Jayhawk in a single season, as well as the 20th goal of her KU career.
The two squads played even during the first 15 minutes of the second period, however the Sooners again found themselves on the right side of a rebound, this time in the 62nd minute. Oklahoma sent a corner kick into the KU box which, after a hard Sooner blast from 15 yards out again ricocheted off a KU player, wound up at the feet of OU freshman Madeline Brem. The defender wasted little time in kicking home her fourth of the season and putting her team back on top with just under a half hour to play in the match.
Despite facing its second deficit of the match the Jayhawks continued to create chances over the remaining minutes of the match. KU outshot OU by a tally of 10-4 over the final 45 minutes including perhaps the best chance of the half off Salazar’s boot in the 80th minute.
With Kansas on the attack, a long KU pass forced the Sooner keeper, Kaitlyn Fahrner, out of her goal in an attempt to corral the loose ball. The Jayhawks beat her to it though and Salazar wound up with a look at the open net from just outside the penalty area. The junior’s shot curled just inches wide of the left post though, sending Kansas the other way with a tantalizingly close opportunity to once again knot up the score.
Several late attempts down the field yielded no result and Kansas was forced to head home after a quarterfinal loss in the Big 12 Championship for the fourth-straight year.
Salazar led the squad with five shots on the night and was followed closely by senior Jamie Fletcher, who posted four shots. Redshirt freshman Maddie Dobyns got her second-career start in goal for Kansas and faired well, amassing four key saves, all of which came in the first half.
The Jayhawks will now await their NCAA Tournament fate as they hope to make the field of 64 for the College Cup set to begin next weekend. The NCAA selection show will take place at 3:30 p.m. (CT), on Monday, November 10. Kansas will look to make its fifth NCAA Tournament field and the first since 2011.
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