Kansas soccer upsets No. 18 Pepperdine in season opener
Freshman Sarah Peters got her first chance at giving the Kansas women’s soccer team a win against No. 18 Pepperdine before she even went to her first class.
With two saves already on the night, into the 61st minute, Peters saw pressure coming toward the net from Pepperdine’s forward line. Deciding to not play the ball short, she launched a goal kick as hard as she could into the Jayhawks backline that wasn’t being defended.
The ball landed right at midfield, taking a lucky bounce off a Waves midfielder for a turnover. Junior forward Katie McClure was in the right place to take a chance in the eventual 1-0 victory Friday night at Rock Chalk Park.
McClure, who already had a chance in the first half, quickly raced the ball into a box and launched a shot that bounced into the net after being tipped off the gloves of Pepperdine goalkeeper Zoe Clevely.
“Straight to goal,” McClure said after the match. “I was lined up perfectly, so there was no other way to plan it out for me. I kind of just took my touch right to goal and it set me up for a great shot”
McClure’s lone score was enough to finish off the upset over Pepperdine.
Peters, who was credited with a shutout in her rookie debut, notched her first save as a Jayhawk 13 minutes into the first half and her second at the 51st minute.
“Outstanding, I can’t say really anything else,” McClure said of Peters’ outing. “She did a great job, she’s coming off her line, she’s making great saves, talking really well, so I think she’s a big key for us and she’ll be great moving forward.”
Head coach Mark Francis had full faith in giving the freshman the start. Tallying her first save in a play where he felt the Waves were “all over us” in the first 15-20 minutes, Peters continued to show she why she was chosen to defend the net.
Francis said after the match that Peters was “tremendous” in her distribution and anticipation of the Pepperdine offense. At several points, Peters drew back to allow herself to pick up a pass for what might have appeared to be a risky situation.
“She was right there, anticipating it,” Francis said. “(If) she doesn’t do that, that kids running onto it and it’s a one-v-one … for a freshman, very composed for a kid as young as she is.”
With seven athletes playing notable minutes off the bench, Francis felt that a lot of Friday night’s win was a result of the team’s improved depth.
Midfielder Miriam Melugin returned to the pitch in the 35th minute after redshirting the season prior with a torn ACL. She went on to play 54 minutes after giving rest to midfielder Ceri Holland. Freshman Grace Wiltgen made her debut notable as well, tallying 64 minutes at forward.
Junior forward Taylor Christie logged 34 minutes, helping the Jayhawks maintain their offensive pressure. Taylor tallied a team-leading three shots, in which one attempt sailed just to the right of the far post late in the match.
Kansas plays host to South Dakota State at 1 p.m. Sunday at Rock Chalk Park.