North Texas soccer holds on to beat Rice 1-0 in battle for first in C-USA

North Texas soccer holds on to beat Rice 1-0 in battle for first in C-USA

North Texas soccer holds on to beat Rice 1-0 in battle for first in C-USA
October 06
14:10 2018

The Mean Green improved to 8-1-1 on the year and 3-0 in conference play when sophomore forward Berklee Peters chipped in the game-winning goal during minute 73 to beat the Rice Owls 1-0 on Friday.

North Texas was in jeopardy of losing its first home conference game since 2008 after senior forward Taylor Torres was given a red card and ejected in the 62nd minute of the game. Because of this, the Mean Green were only able to play with 10 players the rest of the match while Rice had the advantage of a full lineup of 11 players.

Head coach John Hedlund said this team is unlike any other since he has been here because of the grit and tenacity the women showed after losing a senior leader for the match.

“It was a game about shifts of momentum,” Hedlund said. “When we got the red card, our girls showed their character. For us to score a goal with a man down and then contain that offense for another 15-20 minutes was just remarkable. We were not going to be denied. I haven’t seen anything like that since I’ve been here.”

Rice — a C-USA rival — entered the contest with a 3-6 record (1-2 C-USA), with notable losses to No. 13 Texas, No. 18 Memphis and Alabama in non-conference play.

Although they have struggled to finish games this season, the Owls are coming off a 2017 Conference USA regular season title and were picked to finish No. 1 in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Last year, North Texas scored a goal against Rice in the 88th minute to tie the game at 1-1, which ended up resulting in a draw.

After tonight’s win, North Texas now leads the all-time series 5-3-2.

Senior forward Aalyiah Nolan leads against a Rice player on Saturday. Jessika Hardy

The first half was a defensive match. North Texas goalkeeper Kelsey Brann dove and knocked out every ball that came her way. She has only allowed three goals through 10 games and currently holds the nation’s ninth-best save percentage at .906, which is the best in NCAA for a freshman.

“Kelsey was unbelievable,” Hedlund said. “She made some big-time saves, especially when she had to come off her line a couple times very quickly. She just has that presence in the goal to go along with so much confidence.”

Brann has played with both the U.S. and Mexico international teams as a junior, but she says this might be the most fun and hard-working group of girls she has been able to play with.

“Honestly, I love playing with this team, and every day they keep me motivated,” Brann said. “This is one of my favorite teams I have ever played on because there is that camaraderie within the girls. They push me to work harder every single day in practice and in the games. I just don’t want to let them down.”

Peters’ game-winning goal was her fourth goal in the last three matches. All four goals have come in conference play and she is currently tied for second in goals scored during C-USA matches.

Peters said that although Torres was ejected in the second half, she still had faith in herself and senior forward Aaliyah Nolan to get the first goal of the night that seemed so elusive for much of the match.

“I knew that Aaliyah and I — with our speed and confidence — were playing really well together,” Peters said. “We kind of had to keep them in, put pressure on them and just go at the goalie.”

The Mean Green will host the University of Alabama at Birmingham this Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Mean Green Soccer Stadium. UAB comes into the matchup 3-1 in conference play and hasn’t played a match since Sunday when they beat Rice 1-0.

North Texas is crawling closer to the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 poll. On Tuesday, they were sitting at No. 29, but two wins this weekend could be enough to propel the Mean Green inside the Top 25 for the first time in program history.

Featured Image: The Mean Green are undefeated in C-USA play after their win against Rice University on Saturday. Jessika Hardy

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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