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Archive for Friday, November 2, 2001

Kansas savoring record-setting season

November 2, 2001

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Mark Francis pulls no punches when asked about the winningest and highest scoring soccer season in Kansas University history.

"It's all about recruiting," said Francis, now in his third year as the Jayhawks' coach. "But the biggest thing is our mentality is different. They believe they can win."

Kansas labeled women's soccer a varsity sport for the first time in 1995 and, until this year, the Jayhawks had never won more than eight games.

Today they have a 12-5 record going into their regular-season finale today against Missouri. Game time is 3 p.m. at SuperTarget Field.

Seniors Hilla Rantala, a native of Finland who came here from South Alabama U. with Francis in 1999, and Natalie Hoogveld, a Canadian, have been the ringleaders, as expected, but a talented group of freshmen who have also helped elevate the KU program to new heights.

The Jayhawks have already scored 43 goals. That's 12 more than the previous record. Rantala, who missed last season with a knee injury, leads the Jayhawks with nine goals. Hoogveld has eight, but so do freshmen Rachel Gilfillan and Monica Brothers.

Gilfillan, a 5-foot-11 forward, was a high school All-American after playing for Woodbury High in Cottage Grove, Minn., but the 5-foot-8 Brothers was basically an unknown outside of the Sunflower League.

Brothers, who played for Leavenworth High, scored three of her eight goals against Oklahoma State in September and earned weekly recognition from the Big 12 office.

"We knew we had some good freshmen and we knew we had some diamonds in the rough," Francis said.

One of the latter was Brothers.

"We heard about her in the spring and we checked her and she was legit," Francis said. "She was on a team that really struggled, but Nebraska found here as well, and we were fortunate to get her."

Another standout freshman has been 5-10 goalie Meghan Miller who hails from Seattle, Wash. Miller has been a factor in the Jayhawks' six shutouts this season, including the last three matches in a row.

"Meghan has really established herself," Francis said. "I've talked to some coaches, and they can't believe she's a freshman."

All five of the Jayhawks' losses have been to nationally ranked teams, including Nebraska, Texas and Texas A&M in the Big 12. Kansas is in fourth place in league standings with its 6-3 record while Missouri is fifth at 5-4.

Today's winner will earn the No. 4 seed in next week's conference tourney in San Antonio and the loser the No. 5 seed. Regardless, KU and MU will meet again next Thursday in the first round of the league meet.

"We've had our ups and downs this season," Francis said, "but we're definitely on an up now. We're playing well at the right time."

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