Courtesy: KU Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A pair of goals off the foot of Missouri senior Taylor Grant early in each half spelled doom for the Kansas Jayhawks as they dropped the First Round NCAA Tournament game to their old rivals, 3-1, inside Rock Chalk Park Sunday afternoon. Junior Liana Salazar kicked in the Jayhawks lone goal for her 13th of the year, the second most ever scored by a KU player in a single season.
“We lost to Missouri because they were just better than us today,” said head coach Mark Francis. “Today’s game shouldn’t take away the pride we have as a group because we had a really good year. Moving forward, for our program, I feel really good about where we’re at and where we’re headed. This one will string for a little while but hopefully this program will be better in the long term because of it.”
The Jayhawks concluded their 2014 campaign at 15-6-0, while Missouri advanced to the second round with a 12-6-3 record
Reigniting the Border War rivalry for the first time in three years, the stakes had rarely been higher as Kansas and Missouri met on the pitch to battle for a spot in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. The Tigers jumped all over KU during the opening moments, outshouting the Jayhawks 9-1 in the first 20 minutes of action. The Tigers got the upperhand early off the foot of their leading goal scorer, Grant.
The senior midfielder positioned herself at the far post and got on the end of a long cross from the right wing. All that was left to do was tap in the pass from teammate Reagan Russell and Grant was able put her team up, 1-0, less than three minutes into the match.
Kansas withstood the strong Tiger start over the next 15 minutes and began to turn the tide in the second 20 minutes of the opening period. Kansas tallied four shots to Missouri’s one in that span, also managing to control the majority of the possession to take some momentum into the halftime locker room.
The Tigers began the second half much like they did in the first, attacking early and often to again put the Jayhawk backline on its heels. Grant struck again less than six minutes into the second frame. She kicked in her ninth of the year after Kaysie Clark threaded a pass to her as she was getting in behind the KU defense. Clark shot in the goal from near the PK spot to give her team a key two-goal lead.
The Jayhawks didn’t go out without a fight though. Less than six minutes after Missouri’s second goal, Salazar gave her team hope when she kicked in her 13th goal of the season. With Kansas on the attack, junior Ashley Williams took a hard dribble up the right side before sending in a curling cross toward the far post. Sophomore Jackie Georgoulis received the pass and sent in a hard, low pass toward Salazar who was waiting at the goal line. Salazar stuck her foot out and redirected the ball to the back of the net to pull Kansas to within a goal with more than 30 minutes remaining in the match.
Salazar’s goal made her just the second player in school history to score 13 or more goals in a single season. The Bogota, Colombia native ended her year with a goal or an assist in nine of her final 12 outings.
With the momentum back on their side, the Jayhawks continued to attack, hoping to grab a quick equalizer. Kansas tallied a pair of shots over the next five minutes that nearly did just that. Williams got off a strike that sailed just wide right of the MU frame and senior Jamie Fletcher forced Tiger goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein into a diving save in the 60th minute.
The Tigers struck for a third and final time in the 66th minute when Russell shot in her seventh of the year following a 20 yard run down the right side. The goal marked the first time this season that the Jayhawks conceded three goals and just the third time KU allowed two or more goals in a match.
With a two-goal lead Missouri packed players on the defensive side of the ball, making it nearly impossible for Kansas to get anything going offensively. The Jayhawks tallied four shots in the final 20 minutes of play, the best opportunity off the foot of Williams, which forced Sauerwein into her seventh and final save of the afternoon.
The final buzzer sounded less than seven minutes later, signaling the end of KU’s run in the NCAA Tournament and its 2014 season.
Senior Ali Kimura led Kansas with four shots on the day, while Salazar managed to put all three of her strikes on frame. In her final game between the posts for KU, senior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Stroud collected six saves. She ended her career at No. 3 on KU’s all-time saves chart with 281 stops and with the second-lowest goals-against average of any Kansas keeper at 1.21.
The 2014 squad ended the season with the third most wins (15) and the third-fewest goals allowed in school history. The Jayhawks finished in the top-three of the Big 12 standings for the fourth time in the league’s history and made the program’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance.