After 89 minutes of hard-nosed, gritty soccer, Kansas senior forward Katie McClure broke through with yet another signature moment in her illustrious career as a Jayhawk. Thursday’s game-winning goal against Memphis marked her eighth game-winner since the start of last season.
“Just getting that split-second, I knew I had to take the chance and the opportunity to finish it,” McClure said.
The first half saw Memphis take control early and make it difficult for the Jayhawks to mount any sort of threat on the attack. Memphis freshman midfielder Mya Jones dominated the midfield in the first 45 minutes as she consistently won the ball and created chances for the Tigers. Too often, the Jayhawk defenders were caught on their heels as Memphis continued to push the ball forward.
Despite these defensive struggles, Kansas was able to limit the damage to just one goal after senior defender Stasia Mallin’s corner kick in the ninth minute went directly into the back of the net. Soon after Memphis got on the board, McClure had what looked to be an excellent opportunity at an equalizer but was denied at the point of attack by Memphis redshirt senior keeper Rachel Ashworth Shepard.
McClure’s first half was a frustrating one, with coach Mark Francis crediting the Tigers for keeping her at bay as long as they did.
“I think they did a pretty good job of shutting Katie down today,” Francis said. “That was the only real chance she had, and she buried it.”
The start of the second half brought new life to the Kansas attack as the team managed to retain the ball in the attacking third. The Jayhawks’ aggressive mindset was rewarded with a penalty in the 52nd minute, and junior midfielder Ceri Holland calmly fired into the roof of the net to knot the score at 1-1.
Following Holland’s strike, the game became a physical and chippy affair with neither side able to find the back of the net. Jones had an opportunity to seal things for Memphis as she won a free header in the penalty area, but her shot clanged off the crossbar and kept both sides locked at one goal apiece.
As Kansas mounted what proved to be its decisive attack, the ball fell graciously to McClure in the box, and she needed only one touch before launching the ball into the far left corner of the net with just one minute and five seconds remaining.
Despite her individual heroics, McClure remained selfless and credited her team for its tenacious effort throughout.
“I’m not really worried about goals,” McClure said. “I’m a goalscorer, but the records don’t count for me. I’m more focused on being a team player and doing it for my team.”
On Sunday, the Jayhawks will take on Florida Atlantic in Rock Chalk Park as they look to remain undefeated. Start time is scheduled for 1 p.m.