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Roundtable: North Texas athletics 2015-2016 year in review

Roundtable: North Texas athletics 2015-2016 year in review

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

Roundtable: North Texas athletics 2015-2016 year in review
May 08
18:02 2016

Editor’s Note: The North Texas Daily sports staff steps back and takes a look at the entire academic year for North Texas athletics, spanning from August 2015 to May 2016. Between the soccer team making the NCAA tournament and the football team making a mid-season coaching change the night of Homecoming, the year definitely had its highs and lows. But through the good times and the bad, we as a staff have been thrilled to be a part of the ride and provide news reports, analysis, opinion and fun every step of the way. Without further adieu, the North Texas Daily sports staff puts a cap on a captivating year of Mean Green athletics.

Our staff: Scott Sidway (SS), Reece Waddell (RW), Alex Lessard (AL), Clay Massey (CM), Brady Keane (BK)

1. Give a letter grade to UNT athletics this year, and explain how it was earned.

SS: D+. It’s somewhat of a contradictory grade, when you think about it. Congratulations, you didn’t quite fail, but you just barely skated by really well! Still, D+ sums up the year perfectly. Attendance was poorer than poor, the wins were few and far between for the many of the more recognizable sports and coaches were either getting fired midseason, fired by the fans and media, or blasted by their own players. If it wasn’t for the brilliance of John Hedlund, the dominance of Carnae Dillard or the homecoming for Jalie Mitchell, the sad-Jordan meme would be an acceptable substitute for Scrappy’s head.

RW: D. It’s hard to earn a passing grade when your three major revenue sports all post losing seasons, and it’s really hard to earn a passing grade when your head football coach is fired after a 66-7 route by an FCS school on Homecoming. Men’s basketball was below average and softball has completely fallen apart over the past month. However, women’s basketball improved under first-year head coach Jalie Mitchell and soccer won Conference-USA. So I mean, those are two bright spots.

AL:  C. Football’s self-combustion weighs the grade down a ton, but men’s basketball and softball were surprisingly dreadful as well. Yet, there were still plenty of positives to take away from 2015-16. Soccer racked up the most wins in the nation, tennis came one match away from a shot at the C-USA championship and Carnae Dillard had arguably the best individual year in Mean Green volleyball history. But at the end of the day, earning just one C-USA title in 12 sports is a major disappointment.

CM: D. Tennis and women’s basketball made the conference tournaments, and men’s golf and soccer made the national tournament. Those successes created a curve for the F-worthy performances of football, men’s basketball and softball.

BK: C+. I’m basing my grade on the three major revenue sports (football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball), but the success of other sports helped to bring the grade up a little bit. The men’s and women’s basketball teams were both wildly inconsistent, but I think both of them have a lot to look forward to for next season. Football was awful, but they made a solid hire in Seth Littrell. So there is actually some excitement back in the air, which is good for the program.

2. What’s your fondest memory this year in athletics?

SS: The way Dan McCarney handled his abrupt firing was the classiest moment I’ve ever been a part of in my short sports career. How many people in this world would, after abruptly receiving the pink slip 10 minutes after your most humiliating moment on the job, willingly walk out to a pool of reporters and colleagues and talk about it in the heat of the moment? The firing needed to happen, don’t get me wrong, though I still stand it was poor timing on Rick Villarreal’s part. But it was extracurricular for McCarney to go out of his way and tell us he wanted to give us one final press conference, shake our hands, and thank us – even after some of us questioned the direction of his program. Class personified.

North Texas interm coach Mike Canales celebrates with the team after a 30­-23 victory over UTSA. Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

North Texas interm coach Mike Canales celebrates with the team after a 30­-23 victory over UTSA. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

RW: It’s hard to choose because there were so, so few. Mike Canales getting carried off the field in the football team’s lone win of the season was laughable, but my favorite moment of the year was Darvin Kidsy hauling in a Hail Mary pass as time expired during the first half of a game against Western Kentucky. Why? Because I predicted it seconds before it happened.

Honorable mention: Carlos Harris getting ejected for targeting and posting a photo on Snapchat before he even made it into the locker room. What a guy.

AL: Soccer’s first round NCAA Tournament game versus Texas Tech. Jackie Kerestine got injured in warmups and wasn’t able to play, forcing freshman Brooke Bradley into her first career start with the team hoping to win its first tournament game in school history. It was almost like watching someone grill the most perfect steak anyone’s ever seen and then dropping it on the ground. Life really is unfair.

CM: Softball head coach Tracey Kee was tossed from a game against Louisiana Tech for arguing balls and strikes. To be fair, she did it very calmly, but the ump still gave her the boot. But she was still always watching – Kee went out past the left field fence and pulled up a folding chair to watch the rest of the game. Always. Watching.

Honorable mention: Sunday’s softball season finale against UAB. Lauren Miller had a 2-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs, and she squared around to bunt. The pitch ended up being a ball, but I was screaming on the inside and shaking my head on the outside.

BK: Without a doubt, it was the football team’s lone win over UTSA. Seeing the passion and excitement on Mike Canales’ face and the “roaring” student section was a good moment for the football team. The only good moment, actually.

3. Which senior UNT athlete will be missed the most?

SS: Jackie Kerestine is going to be missed for more than just her dominance in net. The amount of leadership goalkeepers have to exhibit is often unnoticed by casual soccer fans, and even though Hedlund is entering the fall with a couple of talented keepers, I wonder if either of them will be able to organize her defense as seamlessly as Kerestine did. They played a huge role in padding her sometimes mind-boggling stats, but she played just as much a role in helping her defenders as they did keeping balls out of her net. Can’t wait to see your North Texas Hall of Fame induction someday, Jackie.

RW: Either Jackie Kerestine or Carnae Dillard. Dillard holds the UNT all-time kills record for volleyball and Kerestine was a brick wall in net for soccer. Both were vital to the success of both teams, and it’ll be tough to match their production when they’re gone.

Redshirt senior soccer goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine and senior volleyball outside hitter Carnae Dillard are two of the top athletes in their respective sports. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Redshirt senior soccer goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine and senior volleyball outside hitter Carnae Dillard are two of the top athletes in their respective sports. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

AL: Carnae Dillard. She essentially did everything and more for Mean Green volleyball, racking up over 700 points and almost 400 digs. She set all sorts of career school records and provided the leadership and experience needed as the team’s lone senior. There’s no way North Texas can replace her with just one person, so it’ll take a complete team effort to match or exceed last season’s 20-13 record.

CM: Definitely Carnae Dillard. Dillard led the team in kills her senior season with 687, and the next most was junior Alexis Wright with 199. I’m not sure where those 488 kills are going to come from next season.

BK: Carnae Dillard. Nobody was more important to their team, and she holds so many records with the volleyball program that I think the team is going to be a little shell-shocked when they can’t lean on her to carry them anymore. The volleyball team has a young roster, but Dillard will be the most missed senior by far.

4. Which team is going to have the most success in 2016-2017, and why?

SS: I would not be shocked to see the women’s basketball team make a deep run in the Conference USA tournament next season. The work Jalie Mitchell did with one of the most shallow teams in the history of basketball was almost Rick Carlisle-esque in terms of turning what looked like nothing into something. Other than John Hedlund, there isn’t a coach better than her at North Texas. It should be fun to watch a Jalie-led team compete after a full recruiting cycle and with another year of experience under Kelsey Criner and Candice Adams’ belts.

RW: I’m inclined to say men’s basketball because of the supposed “talent” they have returning and coming in. Plus, it’s a contract year for head coach Tony Benford, and he knows another sub .500 record and first-round exit from the C-USA tournament will get him a one-way ticket out of Denton. Sure, people are going to want to talk about football and new head coach Seth Littrell, but even the offensive guru himself does not have a magic wand that will cure all that ails the football program. It will be a slow, arduous process to even get Mean Green football back in the bowl conversation.

AL: Men’s and women’s basketball are under pressure to take a leap next year, but tennis should be expected to make the biggest stride. Head coach Sujay Lama struck gold with the freshman duo of Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze, with each earning C-USA First and Second Team honors as a doubles pair. The squad is saying goodbye to three seniors, but added growth from its best doubles team and a strong incoming freshman class should give the Mean Green a great shot at a C-USA title.

Junior guard Kelsey Criner (3) drives the baseline against Louisiana Tech. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior guard Kelsey Criner (3) drives the baseline against Louisiana Tech. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

CM: Softball is primed for a run next season, assuming the pitching staff gets a little deeper. It seems like this season’s struggles were partially due to a young team who wasn’t ready for the grind of a long season. After only losing two players and bringing back eight talented freshmen who were major contributors toward the team’s hot start, watch out for North Texas softball next season.

BK: I’d like to be optimistic and say the men’s basketball team is going to have a breakout season. They have talent, especially with Jeremy Combs continuing to improve, and they added a lot of transfers that could make an immediate impact. Tony Benford is going to have to get the guard heavy roster to mesh together, and I think it’s obvious that if this team under preforms, he won’t be returning again.

Final editor’s note: This sports section has made incredible strides in the last year, and in my personal opinion, has become a go-to source for North Texas sports news. The reporters working their way up this publication don’t treat this like a college newspaper – we treat it like it’s our full-time job. I hope and trust the sports staff in future years will build on the reputation we’ve established in the last year, and I hope you, the reader, continues to visit North Texas Daily for Mean Green Athletics news. We will continue to be the absolute first source to publish game stories after North Texas games, and we will also continue to keep improving on breaking news and providing quality content. Thank you, readers and writers, for helping us grow this enterprise and joining me on this wild ride that has been North Texas athletics in 2015-2016. Also, I still have the transcript. – SS

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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1 Comment

  1. JD
    JD May 08, 21:25

    Print the transcript!

    Reply to this comment

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