Coming off its 2-1 overtime victory against St. Louis last Friday, Kansas soccer is set for a second-round matchup against regional No. 1-seed North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday. The Tar Heels, the team that eliminated the Jayhawks in the 2016 NCAA tournament, are coming off a 4-0 commanding victory over Howard.
Kansas has moved past the second round just once in program history and has an NCAA tournament record of 6-7. North Carolina, however, is the winningest program in the history of Division I women’s soccer with a record of 128-13-3, never missing an NCAA berth in the 37-year history of the tournament.
For Kansas to defeat the No. 3 team in the country, the Jayhawks will need to capitalize on their opportunities offensively and not breakdown on the defensive end of the field. Kansas shoots 15.1 shots a game but only put 35.9 percent of them on target.
The Jayhawks are a notoriously clutch team, with junior forward Katie McClure leading the Big 12 in game-winning goals (7) and scoring nine goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation and overtime. Against a team such as North Carolina, though, the Jayhawks will need to get off to a hot start to make sure the Tar Heels do not get off to a big lead early.
In losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, there was a defensive breakdown for Kansas that allowed the opponents to gain the upper-hand offensively. In both games, the Jayhawks put up more shots and dominated possession, but were unable to claim victory because the defense would allow a breakaway goal or, in the case of the Texas Tech loss, allowed an own-goal in overtime.
Playing against a high-caliber team in North Carolina, which allows fewer goals and scores more goals than Kansas, the Jayhawks do not have any room for mistakes, needing to play a near-perfect game.
The Jayhawks are however coming into the matchup with an undefeated streak against three top-notch opponents, having defeated both West Virginia and St. Louis and drawing with the Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 tournament. As for the Tar Heels, prior to the Howard victory, they lost in the final round of the ACC tournament 3-2 to another one-seed in the Florida State Seminoles.
Nothing will come easy for either team, but for an upset to happen, the Jayhawks will need to step up to a level they have not seen this season.
Kansas will travel to Cary, North Carolina, in its contest against the Tar Heels on Friday. Kick off is set for 4 p.m.