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Depth in midfield leading Mean Green soccer into C-USA tournament

Depth in midfield leading Mean Green soccer into C-USA tournament

North Texas junior midfielder Tori Phillips (24) battles for control of a ball against a Marshall defender on September 22. Dylan Nadwodny

Depth in midfield leading Mean Green soccer into C-USA tournament
November 01
11:20 2016

Despite undergoing a complete transformation in personnel entering the 2016 season, the midfield of the Mean Green soccer team has proved to be a strength once again under head coach John Hedlund.

Three seniors occupied the midfield in North Texas’ 2015 campaign, combining for 13 assists and eight goals.

This year’s trio is comprised of seniors Marchelle Davis and Anna Flobeck along with usually, junior Katie Gernsbacher. The three normally reflect how the game is unfolding. If the team is winning they will drop back more, but in the occasional situation where they find themselves trailing, the three will put more pressure on the defense during play and on set pieces.

“A lot of times the game is won and lost in the midfield,” Hedlund said. “It’s a little unique with us because we play two defensive mids and one attacking mid. [But] those are usually my fittest players, they have to get really back on defense but then help us on offense.

When the Mean Green are at their best, the midfielders dictate the tempo with precise passing and crisp defense.

With this being the first year these three have been tasked with playing together, their chemistry had to come together quickly. And with the ability to conduct both the offense and defense, they have to communicate and be on the same page throughout the game.

“The midfield is where our possession starts,” Flobeck said. “So, whenever we’re able to settle the ball down and play a good through ball up, we’re able to have control of the game.”

With 12 goals, Flobeck (4) and Davis (8) have surpassed the amount of goals last year’s midfield totalled by four, in five less games.

Even though she is a defensive midfielder, Flobeck is tied for third on the team in goals because of her height, athleticism and knack for getting space on free kicks and corners. She is Hedlund’s most dangerous aerial threat, which results in set piece routines attempting to free her.

“[Heading] is one of my strongest assets,” Flobeck said. “I think it helps the team because it’s a 50-50 ball so if we win it then we’re on the attack, so it’s a big part of my game.”

Meanwhile, Davis is right in the middle as the lone attacking midfielder. Playing behind whoever the named forward is for that game, Davis has tremendous speed and field vision leading to ample chances on goal.

Hedlund even placed her at the striker position in two games where she found the back of the net.

Gernsbacher typically is the other defensive back with Flobeck, however, she is perhaps the craftiest of the trio with her passing, which allows her to contribute on both sides of the ball.

When the offense thrives, the midfield conducts the attacking surges.

“[The midfield] really have to serve those balls to the forwards, because we have a lot of speed up top,” Hedlund said. “With our type of offense, they’re looking for the through ball, so the connection between our midfield and forwards is huge.”

While only Davis has significant experience starting games before this year, both Flobeck and Gernsbacher have accumulated individual experiences in different ways.

Flobeck played 42.5 minutes per game as a sophomore and 52 minutes per game as a junior. As a senior, she has not only started every game, but averages over 79 minutes per contest.

Gernsbacher was new to North Texas this year. Having played her first two collegiate seasons at the University of Texas at Austin, she’s gained experience in different places against top-tier competition.

“[Their experience is] big for us because they play a lot of minutes,” Hedlund said. “They know each other, play off of each other and the chemistry [between them] is there.”

For Hedlund, he has started Davis and Flobeck every game this season. The third midfield spot, however, has been shared between sophomore Lauryn Bruffett and Gernsbacher. They also have talent off of the bench that helps in the midfield in sophomore Sabrina Munguia and junior Kelci Slaughter.

Who starts there largely depends on the opposition.

“If I have to go more defensive, then I’ll bring Lauryn to start,” Hedlund said. “If I feel I can go at the team then Katie is in there because she’s almost a tweener between offensive and defensive mid, she really helps us with our possession game.”

Their possession game will likely determine how far they go in the conference tournament.

But this midfield is as good as any that Hedlund has previously had, and they know what they are expected to do.

“[The midfield] just needs to settle [the team] down, that’s when we play our best,” Gernsbacher said. “It all starts in the midfield and it has to be from us.”

Featured Image: North Texas junior midfielder Tori Phillips (24) battles for control of a ball against a Marshall defender on September 22. Dylan Nadwodny

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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