Kansas University's soccer team secured its first Big 12 Conference regular-season championship Friday with a victory over Iowa State. A win today against the Cyclones would be the first step in the Jayhawks' quest for their first Big 12 tournament title.
"It's not an ideal situation, playing the same team that you just beat," KU coach Mark Francis said Tuesday of his top-seeded team's 11 a.m. showdown today against eighth-seeded ISU at Blossom Soccer Stadium in San Antonio.
The Jayhawks split the league's regular-season title with Texas A&M; because both teams were 8-2. Even though KU won the head-to-head matchup, 1-0, there is no tiebreaker.
The No. 7-ranked Jayhawks (16-3 overall, 8-2 Big 12) at least should be comfortable with the scenario in San Antonio.
The last three seasons KU has bowed out of the Big 12 tourney to the same conference opponent it played in its regular-season finale.
Last year Kansas fell to Oklahoma State in the semifinals, 1-0, after beating the Cowboys, 2-0, the weekend before in Lawrence. The two previous seasons Missouri eliminated KU from the tourney -- the Jayhawks had tamed the Tigers in 2001 in Lawrence, but Mizzou was victorious in 2002's regular-season and postseason clashes.
Francis said he was confident this year would be different.
"I don't think this is the same thing," he said. "The girls are pretty fired up, and we still have a lot to play for."
Indeed, this season's squad could help its own seeding for next week's NCAA Tournament with a couple of wins this weekend in Texas.
KU finished with a team-record 16 regular-season wins, but whether those wins will help KU to become a host site, Francis said he wasn't sure.
"We can't worry about those kind of things because they are out of our control," said Francis, who earlier in the week was named the Big 12 coach of the year. "I do think, though, it would help us to have a higher seed, so we're definitely excited about that opportunity."
The Jayhawks -- who rank second nationally with a goals-against average of 0.31 and have allowed just six goals in 19 games -- will have to play without the leadership of senior defender Stacy Leeper, who left Friday's game because of an undisclosed injury.
Francis said Leeper was "doing pretty well," and might be available later in the week.
With a win today, Kansas will advance to Friday's semifinals against the Nebraska-Texas winner. The championship is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Francis said even though his team already had topped the number of games it won last year (15) on its way to a third-place Big 12 finish and NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, there was plenty to play for this week.
"Obviously, it's been a great year, but now it's a completely new season," Francis said. "We've already put the accolades we've achieved in the past and are preparing to reach new goals."