Sunday, September 10, 2017
If it wasn’t clear enough from his words, Mark Francis certainly made it so with his laugh.
After watching his side get outhustled and outplayed by No. 10 Texas A & M in a 5-1 loss, the KU soccer coach stood just off the sideline at midfield. Moments removed from a dressing down of the team in which he said the level of effort all week was unacceptable, Francis was asked about the energy on Sunday. He responded with the word, “Ha” — repeating it five times in a deep, disapproving manner suggesting what occurred at Rock Chalk Park was no laughing matter.
“That was our problem,” Francis said. “We were flat. We lacked energy. We lacked focus.”
The Jayhawks (5-1-1) fell behind almost instantly Sunday, surrendering a goal in the eighth minute as A&M’s Emily Bates found space at the right side of the box.
There was no bounceback after. The Jayhawks struggled to hold possession in the first half, allowing several instances of dangerous buildup play until defender Isabella Cavalcante gave away a penalty in the 29th minute, tackling a player who was actually moving away from the net.
“We were pretty atrocious most of the game but the first 15 (minutes) especially,” Francis said. “Just our decision making. The kids are doing stuff, we’re like, ‘What are you thinking?’ It’s just a lack of focus.”
The Jayhawks made it to the half down 2-0, keeping things just within reach. And for a moment afterward, the energy started to pick up.
Sophomore defender Elise Reina, who played a career-high 38 minutes on Sunday, found space on the left side of the field and sent a perfect cross toward Grace Hagan. Hagan headed the ball into the net at the back post to breath life into a potential comeback with more than 40 minutes left to play.
“I feel pretty confident on the left side,” Reina said. “Right when it got to me I knew first-time I was going to get it off my foot and across the goal. And you know Grace was on the end of it, so that’s what happened.”
Even so, that increase in energy proved just as harmful, even if it what happened was by accident.
After cutting the lead to 2-1, the Jayhawks had a chance to come all the way back and tie the game — “against the run of play,” Francis noted.
Reina had the ball at the top of the box and played it toward Maia Williams, who would’ve been in on goal with the right run but didn’t go after the ball. She watched as it rolled back toward the endline and play continued.
“It was just a miscommunication on our part,” admitted Reina. “Probably my part.”
Less than a minute later, the game was over.
As the teams broke down the other way, Bates gained possession at the right side of the box and began to dribble in toward the goal. She sent a cross into the box, but KU defender Addisyn Merrick, who was backtracking on the play, knocked it back into the net.
“That was a little bit unlucky on our part,” Francis said. “But that was a bit of a turning point.”
Merrick stood on the end line with her head in her hands for several seconds afterward, disappointed in how the play unfolded.
As it were, it wasn’t that moment that cost the Jayhawks the game. In addition to the other four goals they allowed Sunday, Francis noted he was displeased with their practices leading up to the weekend, which resulted in a draw with St. Louis and the loss to A&M.
But they couldn't change any of that after the match. And for that, Francis was quick to note to his players that they needed to focus on how to avoid such a lull moving forward.
“We just got our butts handed to us. Absolutely,” Francis said. “Remember how this feels, because it sucks. This should not happen to us again.
“I don’t think they’re five goals better than us on any day, but they were today.”