North Texas Daily

The wins keep on rolling in

The wins keep on rolling in

The wins keep on rolling in
August 26
00:36 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

It’s not often that a sports team is fortunate enough to post a winning record in  every year of its existence.

But here in Denton, Texas, the Mean Green women’s soccer team has defied those odds, as it is striving to earn its 20th consecutive winning season in the program’s 20–year history in 2014.

Head coach John Hedlund has been at the helm since the program was started in 1995. Despite having a significantly younger team than seasons past, with this year’s squad consisting of nine freshmen and only two seniors, Hedlund believes this team has the potential to take the next step.

“I think to me it’s just a very talented group,” Hedlund said. “And we’re going to try and get a lot of these freshmen good, solid experience in non-conference play. And then hopefully they’ll be ready for conference. I think it’s a good mix.”

One key contributor returning to the 2014 squad is sophomore forward Rachel Holden.  As a freshman, Holden burst onto the scene, earning multiple Conference USA honors including 2013 Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.  She also recently received national recognition by TopDrawerSoccer.com as one of the Top 100 Division I women’s soccer athletes in the United States.

Holden recognizes that despite leading the team in goals last season, she needs to improve her game even more.

“I feel like I have to work as hard and even harder than last season because the expectations are there,” Holden said. “Everyone’s watching.”

In addition to taking on the limelight as an individual, Holden believes that other schools have taken notice of the team’s success as well.

“Going to the finals [last year], we kind of have a target on our back,” Holden said.

However, Holden feels that having a year of experience against the team’s newer C-USA opponents is advantageous for the Mean Green.

“Since we played all of the teams last year, we know them better and know how to play them,” Holden said.  “So I think it will be a little bit of an advantage.”

Although the switch from the Sun Belt Conference to C-USA meant an increase in competition, the team advanced to the conference finals in 2013. Colorado College defeated the Mean Green 3-0 in the C-USA finals, but is no longer a member of the conference.  However, the team still has a major chip on its shoulder after last year’s defeat.

“We all want it so bad,” said junior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine about the conference championship.  “We’re all still a little salty about it.”

Kerestine, one of the team’s captains, especially feels she has a lot to prove this season.  She tore her ACL in the early stages of the 2013 season, making last week’s season opener against Texas Southern University her first game back in action since early last season.

“I feel like I have something to prove,” Kerestine said. “Not to my teammates, but to the conference.”

In her first two games this season, Kerestine has yet to allow a goal in 15 shots, recording four saves in the process.

Hedlund said that Kerestine looks like her old self, and Kerestine said she feels good.

“I just finally have my confidence back,” Kerestine said.  “I’m aggressive, I know what to do, and I just feel happy.”

In addition to its conference schedule, the Mean Green will host a handful of formidable non-conference opponents this season, like Vanderbilt University and the University of Oklahoma in September.  On Sunday, UNT defeated Oregon State University 1-0 in thrilling fashion on a Holden goal in the 87th minute.

Considering the longstanding success of the UNT soccer program, this team should create a buzz around campus as the season progresses.  Senior defender Leah Cox said UNT has a deep team this year with a lot of potential.

“I think we’re going to be pretty good, if not better than last year,” Cox said.  “So I’m really excited.”

Better than last year means a C-USA championship victory. And a C-USA championship means a berth in the NCAA tournament – something that has happened only three times in the program’s history.

“It’s just a very talented group,” Hedlund said.  “I think we have the talent to get to the NCAA [tournament], to get back to the finals of the conference tournament, and perhaps win it this year. So obviously if we do those things, then the winning season comes along.”

Featured Image: Head coach John Hedlund talks with sophomore forward Rachel Holden during a timeout on Sunday. Holden scored the only goal against Oregon State University. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

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