The Jayhawks managed an early lead on a tally by midfielder Jamie Fletcher just 13:18 into the matchup as a through ball from forward Whitney Berry up the middle to Fletcher gave her a step on her marker. She easily scored from 14 yards out into bottom left corner past a diving Eckel for 1-0 lead.
In the 33rd minute of action, a ball was crossed by Tennessee into the middle of the 18-yard box. Kansas midfielder Liana Salazar attempted to clear the ball but her sliding attempt ended up in the back of her own net to grant UT a match-tying own goal.
After UT freshman goalkeeper Julie Eckel saved the day by racing off her line with 3:31 left in the initial overtime to thwart a breakaway by KU forward Ingrid Vidal, Dowd was taken down on the other end of the pitch inside the 18 to earn the penalty call.
Carolina Brown was summoned to seal the deal and did her job by burying the ball in the left side of the net past Jayhawk keeper Kat Liebetrau to seal the season-opening triumph.
Eckel earned her first career victory between the pipes by making six saves, including a match-saving stop by racing off her line with 3:31 left in overtime to thwart a breakaway by Kansas forward Ingrid Vidal.
Brown led the Lady Vol offense with four shots, including the penalty kick score. Emily Dowd and senior forward Chelsea Hatcher each tallied a trio of shots, with the former launching all three of her drives successfully on frame.
"We're excited to come away with this win," Tennessee Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "Finishing that way ... it's always great to be on the winning end of an overtime PK, but it's not a great way for another team to lose a game.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Kansas Coach) Mark Francis, his staff and his team. They have some dynamic players. They were running at us, and we had to solve that. We have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities throughout the course of the game, especially earlier in the game. I thought for as early as it is in the year, we had some great combinations.
"Once again, it's like 17 days into the new season, and there's a long way to go. We're challenging ourselves in August, so that we'll be prepared for whatever we might see in the SEC. Credit to Kansas, they were very tough and definitely made us better today."
Tennessee's offense started the contest with solid pressure as Brown made a run up the right wing to force a corner kick just 1:18 into the contest. Big Orange senior midfielder Emily Shore delivered the cross into the middle but UT couldn't get a shot off as the ball went harmlessly through before being cleared.
The Jayhawks came right back with back-to-back shots as forward Whitney Berry fired high of frame on a long drive from approximately 30 yards out at 2:04 and then midfielder Jamie Fletcher drove a ball right into the waiting arms of Eckel for her initial save.
Off a corner in the sixth minute, KU forward Caroline Kastor missed just high and wide of the upper right corner via a header.
A long free kick taken by Shore in the eighth minute just eluded a leaping attempt by junior midfielder Amy Harrison as both teams threatened early.
The Jayhawks finally broke the scoreless deadlock 13:18 into the match-up as a through ball from Berry up the middle to Fletcher gave her a step on her marker. One-on-one against Eckel, Fletcher scored from 14 yards out into bottom left corner past the diving keeper for 1-0 lead.
Bono managed UT's first shot of the match at 17:33 as a long throw-in from Hatcher was flicked on frame via a header but right into Leibetrau's arms for a save.
The Tennessee pressure following KU's score continued as Harrison had a 20-yard shot from out in the middle of the pitch blocked. Then Dowd made a strong run up the left wing, turned to the middle and fired a 14-yard lazer that again traveled right into the waiting arms of Liebetrau.
Salazar attempted to gain redemption at 39:19 by launching a shot from about 15 yards out in the middle of the pitch. Eckel was up to the task, however, as the Cordova, Tenn., native made a routine stop.
With approximately 25 seconds left in the opening stanza, UT was awarded a free kick about 30 yards out on the right wing. There was a delay in getting Tennessee the ball as Bailey was rushed to lob a pass into the middle with three seconds remaining. Lady Vol junior Alexis Owens leapt high over crowd and headed a ball just wide right of the post as half came to an end.
Both keepers continued to hold the 1-1 tie as Eckel stopped shots from Fletcher (49:55) and midfielder Amy Grow (53:10, while Liebetrau aved one by Dowd.
Hatcher got into the offensive flow with consecutive shots in the 55th and 58th minutes that went just wide of the right post.
The close calls continued at 60:06 as UT's Brown made a move to beat her defender out on the right wing, settled the ball and fired a drive that appeared to tickle the twine. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, the ball had hit the outside of the netting as a tease.
A quick counter attack off a Tennessee corner by Kansas' Berry had her in the clear heading toward the KU offensive third. UT's defense quickly recovered to impede her progress and forced her to take an ambitious shot from 28 yards out that went well high.
At 69:43 Grow again launched a shot on frame forcing Eckel into action. The rookie netminder briefly bobbled the orb, but managed to corral it before the Jayhawks could pounce on any potential rebound.
The Big Orange came oh so close to getting the winner in regulation in the 86th minute as Dowd made a great move to beat a KU player in the midfield. She fed up the right wing to Hatcher who crossed a ball to the left post. Brown was making a run to a spot, but just couldn't quite get there as her sliding tap at the left post just drifted wide.
With approximately 1:31 remaining, UT again had a golden opportunity as Brown moved up the right side, got some space and fired a ball that appeared to be going into the net. A Lady Vol stationed at the left post tapped the shot in to make sure of the goal, but was ruled offside as the score was disallowed. That ended the scoring chances as the two squads moved to "sudden victory" overtime.
Tennessee continues its road trip on Sunday, Aug. 21, by venturing to Norman, Okla., to face Oklahoma at 2 p.m. ET at the OU Soccer Complex.