Archive for Saturday, August 10, 2002

Soccer: Kansas won’t surprise anyone this year

August 10, 2002


OK, so Kansas University's soccer team wasn't quite like the hustler at the local pool hall, setting up potential victims before emptying their pockets.

But to say the Jayhawks sneaked up on teams last year would be an understatement.

"I think we did surprise a lot of people," said KU coach Mark Francis, whose team not only had its first winning season in school history with a 13-7-0 mark but also qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time. "We won't be able to sneak up on those same teams this year, so we're going to have to work that much harder."

That work started the day after Kansas fell to Brigham Young, 1-0, in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Lincoln, Neb.

"That was a huge achievement for us," said sophomore Monica Brothers, the team's second-leading scorer with nine goals. "But I think we all expect to do better this year. We want to go further."

Francis' squad, which had its highest finish ever in the Big 12 at fourth, has been working on conditioning. Many players stayed in Lawrence during the summer to work on drills. Others went home and are playing in leagues.

Basically, that's the same formula the Jayhawks used last year.

"That was a big part of it," Francis said. "They have gained confidence from their accomplishments, but they also know that to get back to that point, it will take a bunch of work."

That could be difficult with the graduation of two of the best players in school history.

Hilla Rantala, who set single-season school records in goals (10), assists (12) and points (32) last year, leaves as the school's all-time leading scorer with 44 points. She had transferred to Kansas from South Alabama where Francis had been head coach.

The Jayhawks also lost the top goal-scorer in school history with the graduation of Natalie Hoogveld, who ranks first with 18 career goals and is second all-time in points."I think as far as pure leaders go, Hilla and Hoogs were the kind of people we fell back on," Brothers said. "This year everyone's going to have to step up and be leaders, everyone doing their part."

That'll mean last year's fabulous freshman class of Brothers, Amy Geha, Rachel Gilfillan, Stacey Leeper, Meghan Miller, Gabby Quiggle and Lauren Williams will need to step it up as sophomores.

They'll have some help from a senior class that includes second-team All-Big 12 defender Pardis Brown as well as Brooke Jones, Brianna Valento and Nikki Wahle, and juniors Maggie Mason and Lacey Woolf.

Francis recruited another potential Sunflower State standout in Rose Hill's Jessica Smith, the all-time scorer in state high-school history while at Wichita Southeast. Three more freshman-to-be Holly Ryder, Plantation, Fla.; Caroline Smith, Edina, Minn.; and Kim Karfonta, Edmond, Okla. round out the freshman class.

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