KU Soccer: Smith Sensational

A soft, chilly rain and a change of venue did little to slow the Caroline Smith show on Sunday as the Kansas soccer team shut out Evansville 2-0 at Memorial Stadium.

Instead, Smith followed her season-opening hat trick in Friday’s 4-1 victory over Northwestern by scoring both goals against the Aces despite
slippery turf and a slimmer-than-regulation field.

The performance validated the sophomore’s return to health after a knee injury forced her to miss five games last year and guaranteed her stat-busting freshman campaign was no fluke.

Through just two games she has five goals and one assist, good for 11 points. That’s tops in the Big 12 by a long shot and earned her Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors and a spot on Soccer America’s elite team of the week. In addition, Smith’s explosive opening weekend has already launched her into third place on the career scoring charts at Kansas – despite playing just 17 career games. Her 17 goals place her one shy of Natalie Hoogveld’s school-record of 18, and her two game-winning goals this season have bumped her to the No. 1 slot in school history in that category with six total.

“I think she felt she had something to prove, not only to others, but to herself, coming off her injury during last season,” said KU coach Mark Francis, who is trying to guide the Jayhawks to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. Smith is done trying to convince herself that she is healthy again. Her
first two games provided all the proof she needs. She left no doubt she’s back at full strength against Northwestern and Evansville, looking faster and stronger than she did a year ago. She’s more powerful, more accurate and more difficult for defenders to handle without question.

That spells good news for the Jayhawks, which are off to their first 2-0 start in school history and are ranked ninth in the central region by SoccerBuzz Magazine.

A 5-0 start is likely with a road trip to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (0-2) at 4 p.m. on Friday and a match at Wisconsin (1-1) at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Finally, a Sept. 9 jaunt to Southwest Missouri State will be the final stop before returning home to take on preseason No. 12-ranked Florida State on Friday, Sept. 12 at SuperTarget Field in Lawrence.

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