After failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, the Kansas University soccer team is hoping to reverse that trend this year. With nine starters back from last year's squad and nine incoming freshmen, KU coach Mark Francis said this year's team should be able to reach some lofty goals.
"Our goal this year is to win the conference," Francis said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that. Then getting back to the NCAA Tournament and advancing. Those are realistic goals for this team."
KU lost two starters from last year, including four-time All-Big 12 pick Holly Gault. Gault scored five goals and six assists in her final season.
"I think the difference this year than last year with Holly was there was a lot of pressure on her to score," Francis said. "And this year I think we're gonna have more people who can score. But I think one thing, too, is just putting more emphasis on that in practice so we're having to do it on a continual basis. I think that was one thing we learned from last year."
KU was shut out six times last season, and Francis expects junior Jessica Bush and sophomore Monica Dolinsky to lead a much-improved scoring attack.
Bush led the team with eight goals and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors.
"She had a great year last year," Francis said. "We're looking for her to come in and be consistent again. And being a junior, we're looking for more leadership out of her."
In her freshman season, Dolinsky scored six goals and was selected to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team.
"Monica did great," Francis said. "She had some injuries early on, and that affected her fitness a little bit. But I thought as the season went along she got better and better. And we're looking for her this year to come in and make that kind of impact right away."
Last year KU shut out eight opponents, and Francis said this year's squad should be equally strong. Returning defenders include All-Big 12 picks Jenny Murtaugh and Missy Geha.
Defending the goal this year will be junior Julie Hanley and senior Colleen Quinn.
Francis said newcomers Emily Cressy, Katie Williams, Lauren Jackson and Kaitlyn Cunningham could start this year.