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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

Jayhawks have local flavor

Coach Francis pleased with ballyhooed freshman class

August 11, 2001

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Leavenworth graduate Monica Brothers knew she was going to play soccer in the Big 12 Conference. That was the simple part.

The tough decision came down to staying in-state and playing for Kansas University or playing for perennial powerhouse Nebraska.

According to Brothers, her decision swayed in the Jayhawks' favor after meeting KU coach Mark Francis on her first campus visit.

"I felt it was right for me," said Brothers who will be one of four freshman from the Sunflower state wearing crimson and blue this season.

"Mainly, I decided to come here because of the coaching staff. They cared about me as a person and didn't look at it as all business-like. I'm so excited to get the season started."

The four freshman add even more local flavor to a KU soccer team filled with eight players with ties to the Kansas City area.

Such an abundance of home-grown talent has Francis hopeful that KU will be able to improve on last season's 7-11-2 record for a possible top six finish and a second straight berth in the Big 12 Tournament.

"We go after the best recruits out there," said the third-year coach. "And this year there were a lot of good girls coming out of the state. All of them have the potential to contribute right away."

Other people have noticed KU's talent. KU's incoming freshmen were rated a national Top 25 recruiting class by SoccerBuzz Magazine.

"I think they definitely have the potential," said KU senior forward Natalie Hoogveld. "They look good so far and they should be able to mix on and off the field with the upperclassmen."

Francis said the maturation of his youngsters (four other freshman along with four sophomores fill more than half of KU's 21 player roster) will be the measuring stick to how this team fares.

"They're all athletic," Francis said. "In our conference if you're not quick enough, strong enough or fast enough you're not going to compete. So they have those qualities.

"But adjusting to the speed of play at this level is tough. How quickly they make that transition will be key for us."

Francis is counting on a solid group of veterans to fill the holes left by seven graduated seniors, including four starters.

Hoogveld along with seniors Melanie Schroeder and Hilla Rantala combined for four goals and 13 assists last season even though Rantala, KU's second-leading scorer two seasons ago, played in only two games because of a knee injury.

Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Gonzalez started eight games and had 49 saves as a freshman, but will be battling with freshman Meghan Miller from Seattle, Wash.

Two other players will join KU after transferring. Meg Shively, a sophomore came from Louisville U. while mid-fielder Lacey Woolf left the Big 12 champion Cornhuskers.

Several of the Jayhawks have already taken the initiative to get in shape for the fall and are playing soccer for the KC Mystics.

Brothers, Woolf, Hoogveld and Pardis Brown, who was named third team All-Central Region last season, are all with the Mystics.

"It keeps it interesting," Hoogveld said. "Obviously its good to touch the ball. And if you're playing, you're going to be in game shape."

Brothers likes being around her new teammates in the summer.

"Just getting to know them has made me feel so much better about coming here," Brothers said.

Francis is excited that KU is finally winning part of the recruiting battle in the state.

"It's nice to keep these talented local girls here," he said. "For one reason they are going to help us, and also we won't have to face them at another conference school."

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