North Texas Daily

Soccer forward tries to become bigger leader

Soccer forward tries to become bigger leader

September 09
00:10 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

Sophomore forward Rachel Holden came to UNT as a freshman in 2013 trying to make a splash in an already well-established soccer program.

She led the Mean Green soccer team in almost every offensive category, including goals, total points, shots, shots on goal, game-winning goals and had two hat tricks.  She also earned both Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors.

Now, coming off her breakout freshman campaign, Holden looks to become a better player than she was last year, and that includes expanding her leadership.

“There is some pressure, and there are expectations,” Holden said. “But it’s something I have to work even harder for, because it is expected. I can’t take anything for granted. I can’t take days off.  It’s good pressure, in a way.”

Holden is known for her composure in all aspects of the game, ranging from how she handles the ball on the field to how she handles expectations off the field. Holden’s demeanor has drawn praise from teammates and coaches. Junior forward Amber Haggerty said  Holden’s attitude is inspiring and goes hand-in-hand with her leadership skills.

“She’s quiet and lead-by-example, but at the same time she is vocal,” Haggerty said. “I think she encourages people a lot, and she never gives up, so that definitely pushes me. When I see her go for a ball that I know she probably didn’t want to go for, that helps me be like ‘Ok, she needs my help, let me go and help her.’”

Holden said she’s not the type to get too loud with her teammates and it shows when she’s on the field.

“How I play shows more than how much I speak  because I don’t really yell at people unless it’s on the field,” Holden said. “I mean, not mad-yelling. It’s encouraging.”

There are many different forms of leadership in sports, and Holden’s approach fits nicely with the chemistry of this year’s team. The two captains for the Mean Green, junior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine and junior midfielder Lindsey Hulstein, are both extremely vocal leaders. Holden’s quiet style helps compliment that.

Head coach John Hedlund also said Holden isn’t overly vocal, but he said that it’s her attitude that gives her good leadership qualities.

“[Holden is] Highly competitive, never wants to be taken off the field. She’s her worst critic, believe me,” Hedlund said.  “She feels she should score a couple goals a game. Now that’s not always going to happen because she’s going to be double-teamed at times, but you love a kid with that type of attitude.”

While Holden may not score a goal in every game, she’s already started her 2014 campaign on the right foot, as she has scored two goals through the first five games of the season.  Haggerty said Holden will continue to improve as her UNT career progresses.

“I think that she’ll have even more goals this year,” Haggerty said. “I think last year was just setting the pace for all of her years, but I think every year she’s going to improve because I’ve already seen it.”

Holden said she realistically feels that she can improve on last year’s total and score three or four hat tricks. But regardless of the total number of goals she scores this year, Hedlund knows his starting forward will be a major part of the offense.

“Everybody knows how good she is,” Hedlund said. “She’s Offensive Player of the Year for C-USA and she’s off to another great start this season. So we have a lot of offense, but obviously she’s a big part of what we do from an offensive standpoint.”

Holden knows there are upperclassmen who have established leadership roles on the team and said she hopes to become one as well.

“I would say I’m trying to be more of a leader, but there’s also a lot of people who I still look up to and take that leadership role, like Lindsey [Hulstein] and Jackie [Kerestine], the captains, and then just a lot of the upperclassmen,” Holden said. “I feel like they’re leaders, but of course I’m trying to emerge as a leader on the team.”

Featured Image: Sophomore forward Rachel Holden kicks the ball downfield during the game against Vanderbilt University on Sunday. Holden took four shots against the Commodores in a 1-0 win. Photo by Benjamin Regalado – Staff Photographer

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