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Mean Green soccer has the talent to reload and compete in C-USA

Mean Green soccer has the talent to reload and compete in C-USA

North Texas senior Jackie Kerestine clears the ball with her fists following a free kick in the final minutes of the game on Sunday. Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

Mean Green soccer has the talent to reload and compete in C-USA
April 14
00:21 2016

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

When the final buzzer sounded on the Mean Green’s season at the NCAA tournament in November, the clock also expired on the careers of seven talented seniors.

The class won four regular season conference championships, two conference tournaments and set multiple school records. But now, the entire starting midfield from 2015 is gone, the team lost the greatest goalkeeper in school history in Jackie Kerestine, and gone are Tess Graham and Molly Grisham, the anchors of the statically best defense in the country.

On the surface, it seems like it would be hard to move on from that much production. But as the spring soccer season kicks into second gear this month, it’s important to remember the words of Kendrick Lamar.

“We gon’ be alright.”

John Hedlund knows what he’s doing, and he has brought in the pieces to keep this thing going. With 21 seasons at the helm, Hedlund has never posted a losing record, thanks in large part to his ability to recruit.

Arguably the most impressive part of last year’s team was how talented the bench was. If Hedlund needed to give one of his forwards a rest, he brought in sophomore Taylor Torres, who scored three goals and four assists last season and also trained with Mexico’s U-17 team in high school.

Clay Massey Meagan Sullivan | Visuals Editor

Clay Massey

The team also returns Rachel Holden, who was showered with Conference-USA awards for a 12 goal, three assist season, so the team will have scoring options up front. The biggest concern comes on who will be getting the ball to Holden, especially because all three starters in the midfield have graduated out of Hedlund’s 4-3-3 system. 

The three senior midfielders accounted for nearly half of North Texas’ 30 season assists, and when you lose half of your ball distribution that led to goals, that is a big problem.

The biggest loss in the midfield has to be Pineda, who accounted for seven goals and nine assists. She did it all, including delivering set-piece balls that would make the great Andrea Pirlo swoon, and was one of the more underrated players in C-USA. 

But Hedlund has knack for recruiting midfielders, as seen with the talented midfield class he just graduated and a bench that was talented enough to start. New freshman Stefanie Grba has trained with the Serbian U-17 National Team and is a true speed demon. Hedlund also added Logan Layn, who is a true defensive wrecking ball that was lost with Molly Grisham.

Losing two center backs is tough, especially when they anchored the statistically best defense in the country. But Hedlund teaches a defense-first system, which will make it easier for newcomers to come in and be successful in Denton.

The defensive players on the bench did not get many looks in 2015, so it will be interesting to see how they shape-up. But there’s no reason to worry, as Hedlund teaches defense. He was a defender at the national team level in the United States himself.

Part of the reason North Texas was the best defensive team in the nation was Kerestine. North Texas never allowed more than two goals in a game last season, and that seems to be an achievable goal next season as well. Sophomore Brooke Bradley trained under Kerestine for a season and only allowed one goal in 97 minutes. She also made 10 saves against Texas Tech in the NCAA tournament when she was thrust into the starting XI after Kerestine was injured in warm-ups.

There’s also incoming freshman Miranda Schoening, who started on her high school team when she was in 7th grade. Let that sink in for a minute.

Her 6’1 frame also reminds Hedlund of Kerestine, and she looks to be the talent you need to replace a hall of fame goalkeeper.

If history is any indication, North Texas will be just fine. Hedlund has been at the helm since day one and has built this program from scratch. The pieces of the puzzle are there, and they should fall into place just like they have in the past.

So, to the 2015 seniors of Mean Green Soccer, thanks for the memories. Your legacy will be carried by the power you have given this program on a national stage and the highly talented recruits who came here because of your legacy.

As Kendrick Lamar so eloquently told us – “We gon’ be alright.”

Featured Image: Senior Jackie Kerestine clears the ball with her fists following a free kick in the final minutes of the game on Sunday. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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