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Soccer’s underclassmen look to fill void of talented senior class

Soccer’s underclassmen look to fill void of talented senior class

North Texas senior Jackie Kerestine clears the ball with her fists following a free kick in the final minutes of the game on Sunday. Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

Soccer’s underclassmen look to fill void of talented senior class
November 19
04:24 2015

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

After sweeping through the Conference-USA tournament, the Mean Green soccer team’s historic 19-win season came to an end after it was defeated by Texas Tech University 1-0 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

With the end of a collegiate season comes the inevitable graduation of a senior class. North Texas will graduate eight players – seven of whom were starters.

The graduating starters include record-setting goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine, defenders Tess Graham and Molly Grisham, and midfielders Lindsey Hulstein, Jackie Moureau, Karla Pineda and forward Amber Haggerty. That leaves holes to be filled, and the underclassmen will be forced to step in for a productive senior class.

“They will make a difference next year,” head coach John Hedlund said. “I think the young players have really done well this year. A lot of them haven’t got the playing time they’ve wanted because of the seniors, but at the same time we’ve plugged them in and several of them have played at a high level.”

One player who has played at a high level when given the chance is freshman Taylor Torres. A four-star recruit striker out of Frisco, Texas, Torres appeared in all 23 matches for the Mean Green, totaling 1,038 minutes. She also notched three goals and four assists, tying for third on the team with 10 points.

Torres will be called upon to fill the hole left up top by Haggerty’s departure. She’s no stranger in stepping into big roles, as she was called into the U-17 Mexican National Team camp when she was a freshman in high school.

“Everyone on the team has great potential,” Torres said. “I know I’ll get my time, and I understand that as a freshman, I don’t get as much playing time, especially because there’s a lot of seniors. Once I step on the field, I know I have to work really hard to earn more playing time.”

One of the biggest holes the Mean Green will have to cope with is replacing the entire midfield unit. With Moureau, Hulstein and Pineda graduating, the Mean Green’s diamond midfield will consist of three new players.

One player who is looking to step into that midfield is freshman Olivia Bagby, who came off the bench nine times for 219 minutes and scored one goal this season. With three talented seniors  that were in front of her on the depth chart, she had trouble cracking the starting line-up.

North Texas junior forward Anna Flobeck (14) attempts to gain control of the ball following a throw in earlier this season. Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

North Texas junior forward Anna Flobeck (14) attempts to gain control of the ball following a throw in earlier this season. Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

“A lot of the newer players don’t get a much playing time,” Bagby said. “That can kill your confidence at times. You just have to be strong minded and pull through that. I think that is the biggest challenge. Sometimes we won’t play for 30 minutes and [Hedlund] will sub us in and we have to go in pretty much without a warm-up. That’s tough.”

With an entire section of the field graduating, on-the-field chemistry could be a concern heading into 2016. But Bagby said she and whomever may step into that role next year are doing their best to make sure that they are prepared as a midfield to take over.

“A lot of the girls who are going to probably play there next year actually play together now on the non-starting team, so I think we already have chemistry,” Bagby said. “I don’t think it will be much of an adjustment. I don’t know who [Hedlund] is bringing in. I just hope I’m a bigger part of that. I feel like I’m ready for it if I get the opportunity.”

Another area of the field missing a key player next season is goalkeeper. Gone will be Kerestine, the owner of nearly every goalkeeping record at North Texas. The next in line could be freshman Brooke Bradley, who appeared in two matches this season, including starting the 1-0 loss to Texas Tech in the NCAA tournament.

Despite being thrust into the starting lineup unexpectedly following Kerestine’s pre-game injury, Bradley still managed to make 10 saves against an opportunistic Texas Tech squad.

“I think we’re always going to be strong in that area. We recruit goalkeepers hard,” Hedlund said. “Obviously replacing Jackie is not going to be easy, but at the same time I think we’re going to be pretty solid next year with two or three solid keepers vying for one positon.”

Replacing this senior class is not going to be easy for the Mean Green, especially with the loss of over 60 percent of the starting line-up from this season. But Hedlund seems unphased and is ready for his underclassmen to take the torch.

“I think we’ve brought in the right players to keep this thing going and keep us on top,” Hedlund said. “You’re always going to lose players, but you’ve got to replace them. It’s not going to be easy, but I think we’re going to be a young but talented team next year.”

Featured Image: North Texas senior Jackie Kerestine clears the ball with her fists following a free kick in the final minutes of a game earlier this season. Colin Mitchell | Intern Photographer

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