Originally published November 10, 2014 at 04:00p.m., updated November 10, 2014 at 11:56p.m.
For just the second time since Missouri left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in 2012, the Border War will be temporarily renewed when Kansas University’s women’s soccer team hosts the Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. Sunday at Rock Chalk Park.
Kansas coach Mark Francis said he was not surprised when the rivalry matchup was announced during Monday’s NCAA Tournament selection show.
“We had a pretty good idea that we would get in and play Missouri,” Francis said following the Jayhawks’ watch party at Rock Chalk Park. “The Missouri coach (Brian Blitz) texted me this morning, asking me about what times did we put down and days because they put in to host as well.”
KU and MU had to wait until the second half of the fourth region to find out their fates in the tournament, but when senior Caroline Van Slambrouck heard the words “Border War,” she knew Kansas was returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
“I was like, ‘We’re in. We’re in.’ My heart was pounding,” Van Slambrouck said. “I mean, that’s the second year that they (the selection committee) has done that to us where they’ve put us in the final eight.”
The only other time Kansas and Missouri have played each other since the Tigers joined the SEC was in the NCAA softball tournament in May, when Mizzou defeated KU, 6-3. The softball Border War showdown was played in Columbia, so this will be the first time Mizzou returns to Lawrence as an SEC school.
“Obviously, we had great battles with them over the years when they were in the conference,” Francis said. “They’re a good team, very well-coached. It’s a tough matchup for the first round.”
KU (15-5) was the last of six Big 12 teams to be announced in the 64-team bracket. As the other five conference foes were rattled off, Francis was confident the Jayhawks would get a NCAA bid, but it didn’t go without a little bit of anxiety.
“If we weren’t in, I was going to create some trouble. No, it didn’t surprise me when we were in,” Francis said. “When I saw some of the other teams in the conference were in, I knew we were in. But it was getting a little nerve-wracking, wasn’t it?”
The Tigers finished fourth in the SEC with an overall record of 11-6-3. Mizzou was 7-1-1 at home, adding to the importance of playing in Lawrence for the Jayhawks.
“I’d love to say that people outside of the soccer realm are going to come out and support us and watch,” Van Slambrouck said. “Hopefully not too many Missouri fans, but we’re really lucky that we’re hosting.”
Van Slambrouck vividly remembers the last Border War soccer showdown from her freshmen season, when the Tigers edged the Jayhawks, 3-2, in Columbia.
“We had a two-goal lead and lost it in eight minutes,” Van Slambrouck said. “I gave away the PK to lose it.”
Junior Liana Salazar and seniors Kaitlyn Stroud and Jamie Fletcher join Van Slambrouck as Jayhawks who have experienced playing in the Border War atmosphere. The senior defender said it won’t be an issue for the rest of the Jayhawks to understand the meaning of the Border War.
“You can’t go to Kansas without knowing you’ve got beef with Missouri,” Van Slambrouck said. “It’s something they teach you in orientation.”
The winner will advance to the second round to take on either No. 4-seeded Washington or Rider.