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Mean Green soccer entering familiar territory with sights set on another C-USA crown

Mean Green soccer entering familiar territory with sights set on another C-USA crown

North Texas senior midfielder Marchelle Davis (11) looks for a pass towards the middle of the field against Old Dominion on October 23. Dylan Nadwodny

Mean Green soccer entering familiar territory with sights set on another C-USA crown
October 25
10:33 2016

The aura of winning is tangible when talking with North Texas head soccer coach John Hedlund.

And after the team’s emotional win over Old Dominion University Sunday afternoon, he was not content with just narrowly getting by.

“I’m happy with the win,” Hedlund said. “But we have to play better.”

The Mean Green are 12-4-1 overall and 7-1 in Conference USA play, good enough for 21 points. Totaling 25 points will win the conference.

That’s a win and at least a draw over the next two games, but Hedlund expects nothing less than perfection as the team ramps up its efforts for a second consecutive C-USA title. North Texas has made the C-USA championship game every year since joining the conference in 2013, and this year’s roster is poised to contend again.

“We know the pressure that [we have to go through] to get to the final,” senior midfielder Anna Flobeck said. “We also know how to handle that pressure and we’re able to lead the underclassmen [through] it as well.”

While this team has the intangibles to advance to the NCAA tournament, North Texas is not without its flaws.

The two injuries to sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Bradley and senior defender Alexsis Cable have hurt the team’s depth. Fortunately for the Mean Green, the two girls filling in have done a nearly impeccable job of keeping the starting defense strong.

As seen against the University of Texas at San Antonio when the team lost 3-0, the offense can become stagnant and solely reliant on athleticism, which gets them into trouble. The UTSA game also highlighted the importance of rest, showing the affect fatigue can have on a game.

North Texas’ possession can also be spotty at times. It’s easy to play long balls to any of the speedy and elusive forwards, but occasionally they do not control the ball in the midfield as much as they need to, which makes it harder for plays to develop.

And even though the Mean Green’s weaknesses are few and far between, Hedlund conceded the team needs to be more consistent on offense moving forward.

“We’re playing pretty solid defense right now,” Hedlund said. “But obviously we’d like to score more goals. We’re just trying to get our offense where it needs to be.”

North Texas is able to win games in multiple ways, which is one reason they have been so successful. Perhaps their biggest asset is athleticism, something Hedlund and the rest of the coaching staff have raved about on several occasions.

He loves the speed of his team on both sides as forwards are able to get past several defenders to apply pressure on goal. This style of play reeks havoc on defenses and creates plenty of chances for the offense.

The other intangible North Texas has at its disposal is leadership and experience. Seniors Marchelle Davis, Anna Flobeck and Rachel Holden can all help calm younger players during tense situations, which will be crucial in upcoming win-or-go-home games.

North Texas junior defender Tori Phillips (24) turns upfield after gaining possession of a ball against Old Dominion on October 23. Dylan Nadwodny

North Texas junior defender Tori Phillips (24) turns upfield after gaining possession of a ball against Old Dominion on October 23. Dylan Nadwodny

The preparation for those matches has already started on the training ground.

“The energy [in practice] is up,” Davis said. “We know we’re in a good spot and everyone understands we still have [two] games left before we go to the conference tournament, and if we want a ring, we have to win those games.”

The problems offensively are not alarming, though. The Mean Green have more two-plus goal games (8) than scoreless games (5). Their offense is in the top-31 percent in the country in shots and assists per game. They rank in the top-22 percent in shots on goal per game and top-18 percent in goals per game.

Statistically, the offense has been above-average.

Defensively, the team allows .87 goals per game and boasts a save percentage of .831, which is in the top-14 percent in the country. Hedlund and the team attribute their success defensively to the numerous players that can come in at any time and make an impact.

The depth not only keeps players fresh but provides a spark when Hedlund needs to mix things up. Seventeen players have played in 13 or more games, not including the two injured players.

“You have to have depth to win the tournament,” Hedlund said. “If you get to the final, you’re playing three games in a span of five days. You can’t just roll one or two off your bench and expect to be at a high level come semi-final or final.”

The C-USA tournament begins on Nov. 2 and includes eight teams. Should North Texas be a top-two seed, they are likely to face the University of Texas at El Paso, Marshall University or Old Dominion University — all teams they have beaten this year.

Over the last 16 seasons, Hedlund has led his teams to 12 conference tournament finals and four NCAA tournament berths. Suffice it to say, he knows what it takes to get the job done.

But in order to reach their goals, the Mean Green will have to win one championship at a time.

“We put ourselves in a great spot,” Flobeck said. “We just want to get that ring and finish in first.”

Featured Image: North Texas senior midfielder Marchelle Davis (11) looks for a pass towards the middle of the field against Old Dominion on October 23. 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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