The weather has done an impressive job of keeping the Baylor University women's soccer team on its toes this week.
Late Wednesday night, Bears coach George Van Linder received word his squad's Big 12 Conference opener - a home match scheduled for Friday night against Kansas University - was off as the Waco, Texas, school began making preparations for Hurricane Rita.
Determined to play the Jayhawks, Van Linder and his staff agreed to move the game to Lawrence, fought the big crowds and long lines full of evacuees at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and ultimately relied on two flights to deliver the traveling party to Kansas soil Thursday evening.
The reward for all that hard work? A strong batch of thunderstorms early Friday that left the Jayhawk Soccer Complex an unplayable quagmire.
"We just kind of told the players, 'At this point, you can't count on anything,'" Van Linder said. "Just go with the flow."
Fortunately for the Bears, as well as the Jayhawks, the artificial surface at Hummer Sports Park was available on short notice, shifting the game west down I-70 and allowing the soccer itself finally to take center stage.
Despite all the hurdles, Baylor turned in a competitive 90-minute effort.
However, KU controlled the pace of the contest, riding a strong defensive performance and a well executed tally to secure a 1-0 victory and an early spot atop the conference leaderboard.
The Jayhawks (5-3-1 overall, 1-0 Big 12) opened and closed the scoring in the 11th minute of the first half on a nifty play involving two seasoned seniors and an impact freshman.
Defender Holly Gault and forward Caroline Smith worked an impressive two-player game on the left side of the field, with Smith eventually finding some room to work inside the penalty box. The diminutive senior then used her dribbling skills to juke a Baylor defender before sending the ball to the middle of the box, where rookie midfielder Jessica Bush drilled a shot past Bears goalie Ashley Holder.
The goal was Bush's fourth this season, tying her for the team lead with Smith, while the two veterans at the start of the exchange picked up assists on the play.
"She did a pretty good job of being there where she's supposed to be," Smith said of the newcomer from Blue Springs, Mo. "I looked up and she was there. : It's a pretty easy goal for her."
Unable to break the Baylor back line the remainder of the contest, the outcome was left in the hands of the KU defense. The Jayhawks answered the challenge by surrendering just 14 shots, and KU goalie Colleen Quinn needed to make just six saves to earn her fourth shutout.
"To start the conference with a win any time is great," KU coach Mark Francis said. "I would have liked for it to have been a little more decisive. I thought we dominated the game : but we've got to bury teams when we're up."
A killer instinct will be a must come Sunday, when KU plays host to No. 14 Texas A&M - last year's co-Big 12 champs with the Jayhawks - in a 1 p.m. showdown.
"It's our second conference game. I don't think it's going to decide the conference or not," Smith said. "But we need to perform well."
Meanwhile, the Bears (2-6-1, 0-1) head east for Sunday's game against Missouri and will keep an eye on the weather to see where they go from there.
"We all brought extra underwear and socks and stuff," Van Linder said.