K-State concludes program-opening road trip

Sophomore forward Kim Braddock heads the ball while sophomore defender Megan Kalkofen tries to catch it during the Wildcats scrimmage on Aug. 6, 2016, at the Kansas State Soccer Complex. (File Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

The Kansas State Wildcats (2-2-2) will complete the first half of their inaugural season this weekend with two games in Arkansas.

The games will also conclude an eight-game road trip for the Wildcats, who will play their first regular season home games next weekend.

Tonight at Central Arkansas

The Wildcats will start the weekend with a match against the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears (4-2-0).

The Sugar Bears enter tonight’s game having blazed a path of fire through the state of Arkansas this fall. They are 3-1 in their home state, with their only loss coming at home against the University of Tulsa on Aug. 26.

They have won their last three since that loss, outscoring opponents 6-0.

The Sugar Bears are largely a first-half team offensively. This season, they have outscored opponents 7-1 in the first half, but are only 2-4 against opponents in the second half.

They have gotten more shots in the second half than in the first however, 39-38 respectively.

For whatever reason, they don’t score as well in the second half, which happens to be when the Wildcats score the most, meaning tonight’s game will likely be hard-fought despite the Sugar Bears’ better record entering the game.

In second halves this season, the Wildcats have scored six of their nine total goals. They have also outshot themselves in the second halves of games compared to the first, achieving 37 shots in second halves versus 17 in first halves.

The Wildcats are also entering hot, coming back from being down 0-1 against Creighton University on Sept. 2 to earn a draw and winning 1-0 against the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Tonight’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Sunday at Little Rock

After that, K-State takes on the University of Little Rock Trojans (3-3-0) in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Trojans lost 0-1 to No. 14 Texas A&M on Sept. 2 after winning the three games prior. Before then, the Trojans most recent loss was a 0-1 loss against Central Arkansas.

The Trojans have statistically had a pretty balanced offense this season, outscoring opponents 4-1 in first halves and 6-5 in second halves.

The defense has been less than stellar in second halves this season. Not only have the Trojans allowed five times the goals in second halves, they’ve also allowed 14 more shots. This could play right into the Wildcats’ hands since the Wildcats have earned 20 more shots in second halves of games compared to their first halves.

Junior goalkeeper Miranda Larkin is scheduled to start in net for the Wildcats and continues to protect the net. In her four starts this season, Larkin has only allowed one goal on 56 shots, giving her a .955 save percentage, which ranks her 10th in the NCAA.

No other goalkeeper among independents, which K-State soccer is this year, or among Big 12 schools, which the Wildcats will enter next season, is ranked above her in the category.

Her three shutouts in four games, including a five-save performance Sunday against the University of Nebraska at Omaha, ranks her tied for 11th in the NCAA in shutouts this season.

The game against the Trojans is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.