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Soccer draws Texas in first round of NCAA Tournament

Soccer draws Texas in first round of NCAA Tournament

Mean Green Senior defender Tori Phillips (24) chases Texas Junior Nakia Graham (11) down the field. Madison Gore

Soccer draws Texas in first round of NCAA Tournament
November 06
19:56 2017

For the second time in three seasons and the fifth time in program history, the North Texas soccer program is in the NCAA Tournament. As they look for their first-ever win in the big dance, the Mean Green will meet the University of Texas at Austin in the first round.

The match is at 5 p.m. on Friday in Austin.

The draw and reaction 

Once North Texas’ name was called on Monday’s selection show, the team clapped peacefully. It wasn’t until they found out they were facing the Longhorns that the room erupted. Not one face seemed unsure or doubtful of their first-round matchup with the region’s No. 4 seed.

The Mean Green knew what they wanted going into the selection show and were pleased with the result.

“I like it,” head coach John Hedlund said. “We’ve played them during the year and I think it’s going to be a really good game. I think the draw was fair to be honest.”

The rematch

These two teams played on Aug. 27 in Denton, and Texas pulled out a narrow 1-0 win on a goal in the 82nd minute. Although it was a narrow margin of victory for the Longhorns, Texas was in control for a majority of that contest.

The Longhorns racked up 21 shots to North Texas’ seven and had 14 corners to the Mean Green’s four. However, only six of Texas’ shots were on goal as the rest were either blocked or off target.

These teams are familiar with one another and it might be somewhat of a chess match between the coaches on Friday.

“We know them and they know us,” Hedlund said. “We know their system, style, offense, defense, but they know us so, so we need to look at our old notes and game film and go from there. [Neither team] has made many changes.”

The matchup

Texas is 13-3-2 overall and went 5-2-2 in the Big 12 while North Texas is 14-3-4 and went 7-1-2 in Conference USA.

A few of the problems Texas presented to the Mean Green in its win in Denton were size and athleticism. While North Texas has the speed to keep up with the Longhorns, Texas is a bigger team and has the ability to control the midfield.

Despite playing in the Big 12, the Texas defense has only allowed .67 goals per match this season. North Texas has been no slouch either on the defensive end, only allowing .71 goals per game.

The offenses are vastly different, granted the different competition. North Texas puts up nearly 20 shots per match and 2.33 goals per game. The Longhorns average 16.6 shots per match and only 1.39 goals per game.

However, Texas showed they are capable of slowing the Mean Green offense early this season.

“For us to be tied with a team for that long and get to play them in the NCAA tournament is kind of a confidence boost,” senior forward Cat Sebazco said. “We know we can hang with this team.”


While Texas has the better resume, they have only won two of their last seven matches. They’re 2-3-2 in that span while North Texas is 10-1-1 in their last 12. The Mean Green have won five in a row to get into the tournament.

Momentum obviously has context, but after an emotional win in the C-USA championship game, North Texas feels like they’re on a roll right now. Texas will need to regain their bearings quickly or else the Mean Green’s confidence could grow during the match.

“Our confidence right now is at an all-time high,” senior midfielder Tori Phillips said. “We went into the tournament and we had to push ourselves playing five games in 10 days. If we can play a game every other day, we can come out here and give all of our energy to win one game and make history.”

Keep Austin Weird

Texas will be hosting the event on Friday night and the Longhorns are 9-1-1 at home this season. They have scored more than one goal only six times this season and all six of those games have been played at home.

This does not bode well for a traveling Mean Green team. But it’s Austin, a city known for its quirkiness, and a North Texas win certainly wouldn’t be the most unheard of thing to happen in the city limits this weekend.

“This isn’t bad, this is fairly close,” Hedlund said. “We should get a good following from our fan base.”

Never too early to look ahead

The winner of this match will face the winner of Clemson vs. Alabama in the next round.

Confidence is key for Mean Green

While Texas is surely a confident team after beating North Texas on the road in August, the Mean Green know they’re capable of keeping up. They’re playing their best soccer of the season and feel they can steal a win-or-go-home game from the Longhorns in Austin.

“We’re confident, but we’re not overconfident,” Sebazco said. “We’re just really hoping to get the result we want and we know the best way to do that is to have the right mindset, have good energy and preparing the right way before Friday.”

Featured image: Mean Green senior defender Tori Phillips (24) chases Texas junior Nakia Graham (11) down the field. 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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