North Texas Daily

Soccer’s season ends in C-USA championship

Soccer’s season ends in C-USA championship

Soccer’s season ends in C-USA championship
November 13
00:06 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

On Sunday, Rice University  shutout the Mean Green soccer team in the Conference USA championship game 2-0 without its record-setting goalie. This comes just one year removed from last year’s C-USA championship game, where the Mean Green was also shutout without its record-setting goalie.

Junior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine was knocked out of this year’s championship game in the 30th minute after a collision in front of the goal, causing her to receive 10 stitches and watch the rest of the game from the sideline.

Last season, Kerestine missed the title game while recovering from a torn ACL. Despite having to come out of Sunday’s game, Kerestine said she is at peace with the 2014 season.

“I’m content with the way the season ended,” Kerestine said. “We got our regular season championship. Of course I’m disappointed that we’re not going to NCAA’s [tournament], but for me personally and as a team, we accomplished so much this year. It’s hard to be mad about the fact that it’s over because we did so well.”

The 2014 season for the Mean Green (16-5-1, 8-1-1) was full of ups and downs. Early in the season, in the span of seven days, North Texas squandered two games despite holding a lead going into the final minute of each game.  But after the two heartbreakers, the Mean Green responded by going 10-3-1 the rest of the way and clinching its first regular season C-USA title.

Head coach John Hedlund, who achieved his 20th straight winning season at North Texas this year, said the team has plenty to be proud of.

“One game doesn’t define us,” Hedlund said. “We are the regular season champions, won 16 games playing a very tough schedule throughout the year and had the highest RPI of all the teams in C-USA. The girls should be very proud of what they accomplished this fall.”

Boasting a stout defense in 2014 is one accomplishment that the Mean Green can take to the bank. North Texas lost three starting defenders following the 2013 season, but the team managed to improve in many defensive categories. The Mean Green only allowed 12 goals all season, compared to the 28 it allowed last year in the same number of games.

North Texas posted the third best save percentage in the NCAA, and Kerestine individually ranked fifth in the NCAA in the same category. The junior keeper also shattered a handful of school records, including most shutouts in a season (14) and goals-against average (0.53).

Despite the defensive improvement, the offense took a step back. Prior to this season, the Mean Green scored at least 48 goals in each of its previous four seasons. The team only registered 38 goals in 2014, averaging 1.7 per game.

One factor for the offensive drought was the drop-off from C-USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Rachel Holden. The forward encountered a sophomore slump in 2014, scoring four goals and one assist after putting up 12 goals and four assists in 2013.  Holden said part of her decline was teams having tape on her.

“I feel like last year, especially me, I was just a new player that gave a spark to the team,” Holden said. “No one really knew about me because I was a freshman, but this year everyone knew.”

Holden said she recognizes that she needs to play better next season.

“I honestly didn’t play my best this season,” Holden said. “But I feel like next year we’ll really work more on the offense and with the chemistry between the players. So it’ll just get better from here.”

One bright spot on offense for North Texas this season was junior midfielder Karla Pineda. After going through her own sophomore slump last year, Pineda bounced back to lead the team in both goals (11) and assists (10).

Pineda’s biggest contributions in 2014 came from set pieces, primarily the corner kick. All three goals the Mean Green scored in this year’s C-USA tournament were a result of a Pineda corner kick. Holden said Pineda was a key piece for North Texas’ offense.

“When one of the forwards wasn’t stepping up and scoring goals, Karla was there the whole season,” Holden said. “She’s not always the one scoring, but she sets up other people to score.  So she was really important to us this season.”

Despite falling just short for a second straight year, North Texas is in prime position to make another run in 2015. The Mean Green only graduates two seniors, so all upperclassmen, barring transfers, will have conference championship experience. Kerestine said she expects big things from next year’s squad.

“All of our preparation starts this spring with the workouts,” Kerestine said. “And then for our spring game, [we’ll] just try to get a feel for what next season’s going to be like. So my expectations are high.”

Featured Image: Sophomore forward Marchelle Davis chases the ball against Rice University in the Conference USA championship game Sunday. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Robson – Niner Times

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