North Texas Daily

Soccer claims Conference USA title with dramatic win over Charlotte

Soccer claims Conference USA title with dramatic win over Charlotte

November 05
14:38 2017

The North Texas soccer season looked as if it may be over.

A Charlotte forward had a clean look at goal with time dwindling down on the clock. Sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Bradley was there, but the hopes of her stopping a shot from under five yards out were slim. The shot was high but the ball was still going to slide into the goal.

Until it didn’t.

The ball ricocheted off the crossbar straight down, bounced on the goal line and spun out, just inches away from ending the Mean Green’s season in the final minute of extra time Sunday afternoon in the conference championship game in Boca Raton, Florida.

“I was just glad we got it out,” sophomore defender Dominique James said. “It was a very scary moment because we worked so hard to get here and for all that to get taken away from you over an iffy goal, that was kind of stressful.”

Then it was on to penalty kicks.

As Charlotte stepped up to take the first penalty, they saw a different face in front of the net. It was freshman Brooke Lampe, who played 56 minutes Sunday afternoon in multiple positions – but never at goalie.

“Matt, our goalie coach, told me that Lampe is better at PK’s than Brooke [Bradley],” assistant coach Daniel Dobson said. “We went back and forth during the week, and [coach] John [Hedlund] made the decision to go with Lampe and it worked.”

Charlotte made her job easy though, completely missing three of its first four PKs. The Mean Green netted two of their first three thanks to senior midfielder Tori Phillips and freshman midfielder Elle Marie Defrain.

With a 2-1 lead and only one penalty set remaining, junior forward Taylor Torres stepped to the spot.

Her shot flew into the upper left side of the goal, igniting a celebration on the North Texas sideline.

After going 0-0 through 110 minutes, the Mean Green (14-3-4, 7-1-2) defeated Charlotte (11-8-2, 4-5-1) in penalties 3-1, winning the Conference USA tournament and clinching a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

“When I was walking up, I was a tad nervous,” Torres said. “But I had confidence because we practice PK’s over and over. I know the exact spot where I want to place it and how hard I want to kick it, so once I got up there I got rid of the nerves.”

The win sends the team to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons. Even after losing a host of key seniors from last year, head coach John Hedlund and his staff once again failed to skip a beat.

“Overall, it shows the program continues to move in the right direction,” Dobson said. “After losing a lot of players last year and having a young team this year, we never once thought it was a rebuilding year.”

The 110 minutes played prior to the penalty shootout, were much less dynamic, but equally as tense. In the end, North Texas and Charlotte both put up 16 shots, showing just how close this game was.

The defenses stole the show, and the Mean Green were held scoreless – well below their average of nearly 2.5 goals per match. While the offense was held in check, the defense stepped up even more.

“The difference was that this was the championship match,” James said. “[Defensively] we definitely tried to pressure them away from goal, and when they were in the box, we pressured them to take a bad shot.”

Bradley only had to make three saves in the match, compared to Charlotte keeper Abby Stapleton’s seven.

North Texas’ depth once again came up huge in this lengthy match. The Mean Green had 15 players play at least 45 minutes.

In the last ten days, North Texas has played five matches and is 4-0-1, with the lone draw coming against nationally ranked Rice University. The Mean Green have gained momentum and do not plan on slowing down once the NCAA Tournament comes around.

“The team has been really focused,” Dobson said. “Ever since we lost to Old Dominion, they locked in mentally and physically, and we’re ready to make a good run in the NCAA Tournament now.”

Featured Image: The Mean Green celebrate after a play against UTSA earlier this season. Madison Gore

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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