In its first game since its 4-1 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas women’s soccer returned to action against Grand Valley State on March 23. The first game of spring play, however, did not go as planned as the Jayhawks finished with a 1-1 draw against the Lakers.
Grand Valley State, a Division II squad, finished its fall season with a 25-1-1 record with the lone loss coming from the National Championship game.
Though a division below the Jayhawks, the Lakers gave Kansas a run for its money and held strong for most of the competition, scoring the first goal of the match. Senior defender Eva Elíasdóttir was the lone Jayhawk to capitalize on a shot, scoring the equalizer in the 77th minute.
"Grand Valley is a very good team," Kansas coach Mark Francis said in a Kansas Athletics press release. "They lost in the national final last year in Division II. I was impressed. I thought they were very good."
The first half was rough for Kansas as the Lakers controlled the ball for much of the period. Despite a strong showing in the fall, the Jayhawks were clearly missing pieces, such as graduates forward Grace Hagan and midfielder Kaycie Young.
Kansas struggled to move the ball around the field and consistently turned the ball over to the overwhelming Lakers. However, much like last season, the defense put the pressure on and did not allow any easy looks all throughout the contest.
"The game was really in two halves for me," Francis said. "I thought in the first half, we weren't very composed on the ball, we weren't stepping up early enough in certain spaces, especially out wide, and we were sitting too deep. I think we gave them a little bit too much time and space."
The second half was another story in favor of the Jayhawks as the offense looked more complete. The ball was moving from side to side at a much higher rate, and the Jayhawks looked to put the pressure on the Grand Valley defense.
Despite a higher rate of passing, Kansas still managed only five shots in the second half, recording 10 total in the game.
"I thought the second half our pressure on the ball defensively was a lot better, and we didn't really give them much time and space to play," Francis said. "I thought when we had the ball we were a lot more patient, we switched it well, we got into wide spaces and attacked them out wide pretty well, which I thought created quite a few chances."
The Jayhawks continued to play very similar to the team that went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the fall by putting the most pressure in clutch time. In the closing minutes, Kansas stepped up but did not manage to score.
However, as the offense increased its pressure, the defense began to crumble. Grand Valley State got a couple of decent looks at the goal, but much like the Jayhawks on offense, it could not capitalize.
After drawing 1-1 with the Lakers, Kansas will need to find offense in more areas and consistently put pressure on opposing offenses to have a successful season.
Kansas will return to spring action Saturday, March 30, when the Jayhawks take on the Missouri State Bears at 5 p.m.