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Recap: Soccer’s season ends with first-round exit from C-USA tournament

Recap: Soccer’s season ends with first-round exit from C-USA tournament

Recap: Soccer’s season ends with first-round exit from C-USA tournament
April 14
18:41 2021

On Tuesday night, the three-time defending Conference USA Tournament soccer champions were sent home earlier than they are accustomed to.

After a uniform mix-up delayed the match’s start, the soccer team fell to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte on Tuesday in the first round of the C-USA tournament by a score of 1-0. The Mean Green (7-3-1, C-USA 4-1-1) had never previously lost to the 49ers (5-5, C-USA 4-2), coming in at 7-0-0 all-time against them.

“Heading into this year’s tournament, we knew we were going to get everyone’s best shot, especially when you’re trying to win four in a row,” Head coach John Hedlund said in a statement after the match. “We clearly outshot Charlotte today and had several more corners but credit them, they finished their chance and deserved to move on. Unfortunately, the consecutive streak of winning six straight titles has ended but I’m extremely proud of those former teams and what they accomplished. It was a fun ride!”

North Texas asserted its will in much of the first half by largely controlling possession and attempting the match’s first 13 shots. One first-half shot attempt was all Charlotte needed, however, as junior Haley Shand got a breakaway with under five minutes before halftime and found the back of the net from just outside the box.

Click here for a video of the goal on the 49ers’ team Twitter account.

“I just remember thinking about 20 minutes into the first half, it was still 0-0 when we had all these opportunities, I got this feeling that if we don’t put one away we’re keeping them in this game,” senior midfielder Elle Marie DeFrain said. “The longer we can’t score, the more in the game Charlotte is going to feel. The fact it was still 0-0, I’m like ‘We have to score, otherwise it’s not going to be good.’ I don’t know how the breakdown happened, but […] I just remember telling myself, somehow I knew it was going to happen because we hadn’t scored early enough.”

While the Mean Green held big leads in shots attempted (18-to-6) and corner kicks (5-to-0) for the match as a whole, they were unable to find the back of the net for a second-half equalizer.

Charlotte matched North Texas in shot attempts during the second half (five each) and got the same amount of shots on goal overall (three each).

“I feel like we definitely dominated the whole game with our shots, it was just hard to put them away,” freshman defender Madi Starrett said. “Unfortunately we gave up the one goal in the first half and just couldn’t come back from that. […] They came out strong and we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”

While this is still to be determined between the coaching staff and DeFrain, the senior said she plans to return for an additional year of eligibility next season. All 2020 fall sport athletes — even those whose seasons were pushed to the spring due to COVID-19 — were granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA Division I Council in August 2020.

“I am planning on coming back next season, obviously if [Hedlund] will allow me to,” DeFrain said. “We’ll have exit meetings and have a conversation [about it]. I’m grateful for [the extra year] because I do need it to graduate. I’ll graduate with or without soccer in May 2022, so the extra year helps me get my bachelor’s degree.”

In making an early exit from the tournament, Starrett said she and her fellow returners are more motivated for next season.

“We’re coming back tougher than ever to win next season,” Starrett said.

Featured Image: Junior forward Connor Barker dribbles the ball up-field against UTSA on April 9, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

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