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Soccer team set to begin C-USA tournament this week

Soccer team set to begin C-USA tournament this week

Courtesy of the University of North Texas

Soccer team set to begin C-USA tournament this week
November 02
14:23 2015

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

With the Conference-USA women’s soccer championship tournament kicking off on Wednesday, Nov. 4 in Miami, Florida, North Texas will be featured in the opening match when they face Western Kentucky University. Being the regular season conference champions, North Texas earned the No. 1 seed and face the lowest seed WKU.

While winning the regular season title is an accomplishment for the Mean Green, an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which was the team’s goal coming into the season, comes from winning the conference tournament.

Head coach John Hedlund is not too keen on the concept of a tournament determining a league champion, however.

“To me, they’re just as important,” Hedlund said. “I’ve always thought, and this is me, that the regular season champion is the true champion. You’re playing a course of three month. You can’t hide in the regular season. When you get to a tournament, anything can happen in a span of five days. A team can pack it in on you and you can find yourself out.”

That was the case for the Mean Green last season after the tournament as the No. 1 seed. The team found themselves in the C-USA Final against in-state rivals Rice University, but Rice was able to put two goals past North Texas for a 2-0 win.

Senior center back Molly Grisham has been a part of three conference finals Mean Green teams, one of which won the Sun Belt title back in 2012. Grisham has since gone on to score seven goals as a defender in her career to this point. She feels as if her and her veteran squad have business to finish in the C-USA tournament.

“There definitely is unfinished business,” Grisham said. “We made it all the way to the final and won the final as a freshman, and so as a senior class we’d like to make it all the way and win the whole thing.”

Senior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine, who was injured and forced to leave last year’ C-USA Final against Rice, is entering her final chance of winning the conference tournament. The record holder of every goalkeeping record in North Texas history has only accomplished the feat once, which was back in 2012 when North Texas was still a part of the Sun Belt conference.

Kerestine feels the team can handle themselves after an impressive conference run that had just one loss, but also said there is still a chip on their shoulder.

“I think we need to prove ourselves,” Kerestine said. “Same thing as last year winning the regular season, now we just have to take it that extra step. We have all the confidence in the world, not arrogance, but confidence in ourselves. We’ve been there three or four times so we know how to handle it.”

Should North Texas win game one, they would move to the semifinals to be played on Friday, Nov 6th. The Mean Green could either face Middle Tennessee State University or Rice, who play each other  immediately after North Texas faces WKU on Wednesday.

Should North Texas win those two matches, they will be in the C-USA Final to face any of four teams: Marshall University, Louisiana Tech, Florida Atlantic University or Old Dominion University. Louisiana Tech is the only team to beat North Texas this season in conference play, but it came on the final game of the season with Hedlund resting many of his players near the end of the game.

All teams in the tournament will also be dealing with the element of fatigue. The tournament only spans five days, with a day break in between match days. Playing that much soccer in high performance situations can be tough on any team.

But Hedlund has been here before, 14 times before to be exact, and said he and his team are ready to seek their preseason goal of advancing to the NCAA tournament.

“It’s not easy,” Hedlund said. “You’re playing three games in five days. If you don’t have the depth, bench or the right rotation you’re going to find yourself in the final with no legs. I’ve got to be smart on what I do throughout the week.”

Featured Image: File Photo

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