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Sophomore forward Bri Amos celebrates with her team after scoring a goal against Nebraska. The Jayhawks defeated the Cornhuskers 4-0 Thursday, Aug. 22.

Kansas soccer will host the Memphis Tigers on Thursday night at Rock Chalk Park in an early non-conference matchup. The meeting should be one of the Jayhawks’ biggest tests before Big 12 play starts on Sept. 26. Both teams are looking to return to the NCAA tournament and have started the season unbeaten.

Each club is also ranked after their strong starts, the University is listed as No. 18 in the United Soccer Coaches poll and Memphis comes in at No. 20. The Jayhawks have outscored their opponents 10-0 with four of the goals coming from senior forward Katie McClure, including a hat trick in the opener against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. She scored a goal in a 6-0 victory against Loyola-Chicago as well.

McClure’s performance earned her United Soccer Coaches Player of the Week honors. The senior forward wasn’t alone in the goal scoring against the Ramblers though. Senior midfielder Sophie Maierhofer headed in a goal during the contest, junior midfielder Ceri Holland scored twice, junior midfielder Kathryn Castro and sophomore forward Kailey Lane chipped in too.

They’ll be going up against a Tigers squad that has only allowed three shots on goal through its first two games. In fact, Memphis allowed only just 68 such attempts in 21 matches last season while having 187 of its own. They even finished the last 24 minutes of their last match, a 3-1 victory against Ole Miss, without junior goalkeeper Elizabeth Moberg after the referees gave her a red card, according to Memphis Athletics. The club also has skilled goal scorers in addition to its stellar defense so KU will be tasked with stopping the Tigers’ potent attack. 

Junior forward Clarissa Larisey has already scored four goals after netting 12 in 2018. She was put on the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy watch list along with her teammate, senior midfielder Serena Dolan. Some notable players who earned the award in the past decade include: Stanford’s Kelley O’Hara (2009) and Christen Press (2010), and North Carolina’s Crystal Dunn (2012). Sophomore midfielder/forward Tanya Boychuk has three goals in two games after the American Athletic Conference named her to its All-Rookie Team last year.

The Jayhawks have shown they can defend through the first two matches against Nebraska and Loyola-Chicago. The two teams combined for three shots on goal and didn’t convert any of them.

“Obviously defensive pressure and mentality is a huge thing for us this year,” Holland told KU Athletics after the win against Loyola-Chicago.

The Jayhawks will look to contain Larisey and her teammates by keeping them behind the midfield line. A heightened presence in the defensive backfield could continue to help the University limit the amount of saves sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Peters has to make. The strategy has worked so far but the Tigers should present a challenge the club hasn’t seen yet this season.