Soccer vs FAU

Sophomore midfielder Sam Barnett gets the ball away from Florida Atlantic University senior midfielder Mary O’Hara. The Jayhawks defeated the Owls 1-0 Sunday, Sept. 1.

Column

The Big 12 is not the most dominant conference in women’s soccer, but it has always possessed top tier teams in the country, such as last year's Baylor or West Virginia. This season, it seems the Kansas Jayhawks may take the role as the best squad in the Big 12.

The latest United Soccer Coaches poll was released on Sept. 1, and in that poll, the Jayhawks ranked as No.11 in the country after starting the year unranked.

A perfect 4-0 record on the year has helped Kansas into the 11th spot and so far. The Jayhawks are the only team in the Big 12 that has yet to tie or lose a game.

A big part of the surging Kansas squad has come from senior forward Katie McClure, who currently leads the conference in goals with six and total points with 14. Not only has she put the Jayhawks on the board numerous times in her four starts, but she has done so with accuracy, too.

McClure has taken only 11 shots this season, putting eight of them on goal. That is a .545 shot percentage and a .727 shot on-goal percentage of .727.

Despite McClure’s stellar play, she herself has not been the sole reason Kansas has started 4-0. Defense has been key for the Jayhawks, allowing only one goal through four games, and the lone goal came from then-No. 20 Memphis — the Tigers are now ranked No. 18.

Defense alongside sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Peters have been stellar throughout the year and have not given up very many good-looking shots. In other words, Kansas has forced teams to take bad shots time and time again.

If the pressure of defense continues, there's no telling what the Jayhawks will be capable of in conference play this season, especially with questions surrounding teams in the conference.

Soccer vs. Memphis

Junior midfielder Ceri Holland passes the ball against Memphis. The Jayhawks defeated the Tigers 2-1 Thursday, Aug. 29.

So far, Baylor has started its season 2-0-1, with the lone tie coming against Nebraska, a team the Jayhawks dominated 4-0. The Oklahoma Sooners have started 3-0-1 but have played in three separate overtime periods already and struggle putting goals on the board.

Texas Tech holds a loss to New Mexico. Texas and West Virginia hold struggles in the early portion of the year, and outside of the Sooners, Oklahoma State has not been put to the test against big contenders.

The season is still early, but the Big 12 conference looks wide open, and this is the season the Jayhawks can capitalize on it. Kansas has been one of the top teams in the country thus far, and if it can continue its play, no team in the Big 12 conference will be able to stop the Jayhawks.

Defense has been top-notch and riding that energy, Kansas can possess one of the best, if not the best, back lines in the country. And with an offensive juggernaut like McClure and junior midfielder Ceri Holland pressuring opposing defenses, Kansas could very well dominate the Big 12 conference and make a run once again in the NCAA tournament.