Memorial Stadium isn’t the only place for optimism at KU this fall. A few miles west at Rock Chalk Park, the Kansas women’s soccer team is looking to build on a 12-6-3 2018 season in which the Jayhawks advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In 2019, the Jayhawks are expected to pick up where they left off. Kansas was picked No. 6 in the Big 12 preseason poll, which is where KU finished last year after a 5-4 conference record—though it’s worth pointing out teams 3-5 only finished ½ game better than the Jayhawks. There’s clearly respect for KU around the country, as the Jayhawks are receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches’ preseason top-25 poll.
Kansas’ 2019 squad will have plenty of familiar faces, though will also be looking to fill a couple key roles.
The key roles will be finding replacements for forwards Grace Hagan and Taylor Christie. While last year’s top scorer, Katie McClure, is back, Hagan and Christie provided a sizable chunk of offense, combining for 11 goals and five assists.
Hagan, in particular, had been a staple of the All-Big 12 teams throughout her career and finished as the sixth-highest scorer in KU history.
There’s no other place to start than with McClure. The senior led the team with 11 goals last year—while chipping in three assists—and is following Hagan up the record books. McClure’s 22 career goals are ninth all-time. Three more this year, and she will jump into the top five. More importantly, those goals have been clutch. Seven of the 11 goals in 2018 were game-winning, and four of those came in OT. When Kansas needed a big play, McClure made one happen.
While there could be some early question marks with the offense outside of McClure, the Jayhawks should be in good shape on the other end of the pitch. Returning in 2019 is a back line and goalkeeper—sophomore Sarah Peters—that produced the third-most shutouts in Kansas history a year ago with nine. There will also be plenty of senior leadership provided by Madison Meador, Addisyn Merrick and Elise Reina.
Meanwhile, the midfield will be led by senior Sophie Maierhofer, juniors Ceri Holland and Kathryn Castro, and sophomore Samantha Barnett—who have racked up thousands of minutes of experience and a handful of goals and assists.
KU spent the offseason bringing in talent from around the globe, bringing in 10 freshmen to supplement a mostly experienced starting lineup.
Among the newcomers are midfielders Margherita Giubilato—who came from Women’s Serie A and the Italian U16, U17, and U19 national teams—and Ebba Costow, who spent two years with IK Uppsala in Sweden’s top women’s league and the Sweden U16 national team.
The Jayhawks got back on the pitch Friday in a 0-0 draw against Omaha—where KU outshot the Mavericks 20-1 but failed to find the back of the net—in the team’s lone exhibition game.
KU starts the season Thursday against Nebraska at Rock Chalk Park before hosting Loyola-Chicago, Memphis, and Florida Atlantic.