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Soccer continues consistent success in Year 23 under Hedlund

Soccer continues consistent success in Year 23 under Hedlund

Senior defender Tori Phillips defends against junior forward Taylor Torres during a game of "flying colors." Phillips currently leads the team in assists. Rachel Walters

Soccer continues consistent success in Year 23 under Hedlund
October 19
19:38 2017

Pacing down the sideline, North Texas soccer coach John Hedlund was still yelling at his players to get in position as the clock wound down in a 1-0 win over a Conference USA rival, the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

It is the type of coach Hedlund is while the team is on the pitch, giving it his all until the final whistle – and he expects the same from his players. Off the field, Hedlund is a down-to-earth, personable coach who players feel they can talk to and connect with.

Being both demanding during the game and a players’ coach afterward has led to Hedlund building a powerhouse program at North Texas. It all starts with one thing – consistency.

With the recent victory over the University of Texas at San Antonio, Hedlund and the Mean Green program sealed their 23rd consecutive winning season. It’s one of only four active streaks in the country.

Since taking over the brand-new program in 1995, all Hedlund has done is win. In August 2016, he became just the 20th coach in NCAA history to amass over 300 victories in a coaching career. He has led the Mean Green to 12 conference championships and four appearances in the NCAA tournament.

“I always expected success because I knew a lot of my recruits were going to come from the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Hedlund said. “I was never expecting not having a losing season, winning 12 conference championships and doing so well in Conference USA, though.”

He has done well recruiting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area over the years and has coached 76 all-conference players since 1999. Some players, like senior Katie Gernsbacher from the University of Texas, transferred into the program because the allure of playing for the Mean Green drew her in.

“He was all about winning above anything,” Gernsbacher said. “I just wanted to come to a program that has a history of winning championships.”

On the sidelines during a game, Hedlund can be seen yelling across the field at players to get in better position or yelling at a referee about calls he disagrees with. These actions give off the impression that Hedlund is a tough coach and a drill sergeant, but in actuality, he is a joking, fun-loving coach who just wants what’s best for his players.

That kind of atmosphere is what has helped build the dynasty at North Texas.

“I am a players’ coach, but they know when the game starts they have to come play,” Hedlund said. “In practice, I try to take as much pressure off them as I can. I try to ease the tension away from them and put it on me. I take care of them, and they know that as well.”

Assistant coach Daniel Dobson has been with the Mean Green program for the past six seasons and has become familiar with what Hedlund has done over the years to turn this program into one of the best – and most consistent – in the country.

“One of the things I have noticed about John since I’ve been here is that he shows up to the office every day,” Dobson said. “I respect that even on our off days he is up there doing something.”

Hedlund has also had success with his players in the classroom, as the soccer team has been ranked in the top 10 percent in the country in academic progress rate in three of the last five years. It is another accomplishment in a long list of awards the coach has received during his tenure.

Academic prowess, as well as on-field success, is one of the many ways the Mean Green have stayed atop C-USA and the Sun Belt Conference for so many years.

“He knows how to win,” Dobson said. “He is very competitive, and he has been doing it the right way for 23 years.”

Walking around the Mean Green Soccer Complex, fans and opposing teams can see the championship banners draped all around the field. To opponents it is intimidating, but to others, the accomplishments are a sign of the constant success that continues to lure players and recruits to Denton.

“Seeing the banners, I am sure it is intimidating,” Gernsbacher said. “There are not a lot of facilities that I have been to with all these banners. A lot of programs that have this many banners have both men’s and women’s teams and have been around longer than 23 years.”

Winning is one of the main attractions for the Mean Green program, and over the past 23 years of existence, that hasn’t been an issue. With the success he’s had winning on a year-to-year basis, Hedlund’s competitiveness still has him striving for more.

“I want to make a run in the NCAA tournament, like the Sweet 16 or Elite 8,” Hedlund said. “Getting up to 400 [career] wins would be nice. We are all about winning – this was a winning program from the start, and I am very proud of that.”

Featured Image: Senior defender Tori Phillips defends against junior forward Taylor Torres during a game of “flying colors.” Phillips currently leads the team in assists. Rachel Walters

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Matthew Berger

Matthew Berger

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