North Texas Daily

Preview: Soccer team has sights set on lofty goals

Preview: Soccer team has sights set on lofty goals

Preview: Soccer team has sights set on lofty goals
August 27
02:19 2015

Alex Lessard | Staff Writer

After tying a school record with 16 wins and snatching the Conference USA regular season crown, the North Texas soccer team found itself in a familiar position last season.

The Mean Green made it to the C-USA championship game for a second straight season, just one win away from its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.

Despite heading into the matchup on a six-game winning streak, the Mean Green fell short by a score of 2-0 to Rice University. North Texas was struck with two devastating injuries during the match, including one to senior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine, who needed ten stitches under her eye after a collision with an opponent.

“I was already mad we were down 1-0. I had to be taken out,” Kerestine said. “It really did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I just know there’s unfinished business there.”

Last year’s season was highlighted by a record-shattering campaign from Kerestine, who became the North Texas career leader in an array of categories. By season’s end, Kerestine held school records in saves (280), wins (47), goals against average (0.76), save percentage (.846), and shutouts (31), all of which could be higher if Kerestine did not miss the majority of her junior season in 2013 due to injury.

Her 2014 campaign was enough to earn preseason C-USA first team honors, one of many successes head coach John Hedlund said proves her value to the team.

“[Kerestine] will go down as the best keeper that played here, and that says a lot because we’ve had a lot of good keepers,” Hedlund said. “She’s got three [conference] championship rings. She wants a fourth. Her experience is so valuable to the defense and the back line.”

Joining Kerestine on the preseason All-C-USA team are senior midfielder Karla Pineda and junior forward Rachel Holden, putting North Texas in a tie with Rice for the most players named to the team. Kerestine was also named C-USA goalkeeper of the week after the Mean Green kicked off its season with two wins last weekend at the Las Vegas Invitational, where she was named the tournament’s most outstanding defensive player.

Dylan Nadowodny | Intern Photographer

UNT women’s soccer players run down the field during practice at Apogee Stadium on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

Even with countless accolades coming her way, Kerestine said she cannot take her foot off the brakes.

“I need to do the best I’ve ever done,” Kerestine said. “I definitely feel pressure. It’s not coming from any outside source but myself.”

At the helm for North Texas is Hedlund, the only head coach in team history. In 20 seasons, Hedlund has posted a 70.3 winning percentage, ninth best among active NCAA coaches who have only coached at one school. He has also posted 20 consecutive winning seasons, the third-longest active streak of any coach at one school.

Hedlund credited most of the team’s success to recruiting, especially players in the Dallas area. One recruit not from DFW, freshman midfielder Sabrina Munguia, said Hedlund’s coaching style has impressed her.

“He lets the assistants do most of the talking,” Munguia said. “He’s a little quiet at first, but once you get to know him he talks a lot to the players.”

Determined to be even better in 2015, North Texas has gotten off to its eighth 2-0 start in the past nine seasons. Its play led to a No. 3 ranking from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in Tuesday’s central region poll. North Texas was voted ahead of many other Texas schools, including the University of Texas, Baylor University, Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University.

In early August, the C-USA coaches voted the Mean Green No. 2 behind only defending champion Rice. However, Hedlund said the team is much more focused on how it stacks up nationally than within its conference.

“For us this year, we want to go to the NCAAs and try to make a serious run,” Hedlund said. “That’s on our mind more than anything else.”

Featured Image: The UNT women’s soccer team practices in Apogee Stadium on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

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