North Texas Daily

With tourney seed on the line, soccer is hungry to top Roadrunners in regular-season finale

With tourney seed on the line, soccer is hungry to top Roadrunners in regular-season finale

With tourney seed on the line, soccer is hungry to top Roadrunners in regular-season finale
April 08
10:00 2021

After what has been a unique spring slate brought on by COVID-19, the soccer team has its sights set on a crucial April 9 showdown with the University of Texas-San Antonio.

This regular-season finale will be a crucial home match for North Texas (6-2-1, 3-1-1 C-USA), the current No. 3 team in the C-USA West division. A win versus UTSA (3-6-1, 1-4-0 C-USA) would move the Mean Green up to at least No. 2 in the division, vaulting them to No. 1 above Rice University (9-2, 4-1 C-USA) if the Owls lose their final match.

“We got to win,” Senior midfielder Elle Marie DeFrain said. “We need to win because it will give us every advantage heading into the tournament. We’ll get a better road, when we play our first round we won’t play the No. 1-seed, we’ll play the No. 3-seed or 4-seed if we win on Friday. The importance is winning Friday.”

Coming off a disappointing 1-1 tie with the University of Texas-El Paso (3-5-2, 2-2-1 Conference USA), North Texas is motivated to take out its frustration on the Roadrunners.

“Whenever we lose or tie, even a tie feels like a loss,” DeFrain said. “We’re going to spring back in every way we can to show we are the superior team and win on our home field.”

Having begun C-USA play 0-4, UTSA secured its first conference win of the season on April 5 in defeating UTEP by a score of 2-1. The Roadrunners have been led this season by redshirt-sophomore midfielder Abby Kassal who scored two goals in the team’s win over UTEP and has tallied four goals and one assist through 10 matches.

“Well, [UTSA] would love to beat us and end their season the right way,” Head coach John Hedlund said. “It’s a game, if we finish our opportunities, we could put them away and start to focus on the conference tournament. Also, we haven’t lost a [home conference match] since 2008. Every conference team that comes in here wants to beat us and break that.”

Forwards Berklee Peters (senior) and Allie Byrd (sophomore) lead North Texas’ offensive effort with three goals each. Freshman defender Madi Starrett has been a key contributor as well, appearing in the third-most minutes on the team thus far (756) and tallying a team-high four assists.

Coming into the regular-season finale, the Mean Green are No. 1 in the nation in both shots attempted per match (26.67) and shots on goal per match (10.67). 

“The pressure we put on teams’ back lines [fuels the shots], that is what [Hedlund] wants us to do,” Starrett said. “Nobody puts that much pressure on teams, we just go at them. We win the balls in their half of the field instead of our half of the field, which I think is very helpful, so we get a lot of opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.”

The team’s 40 percent shot accuracy, however, ranks No. 272 in the nation and is something DeFrain said must improve.

“You can’t get a goal if you don’t shoot,” DeFrain said. “One thing we need to do more of is […] we need to focus on getting our shots on goal. It’s nice to get all of these shots, but if they are not on goal the keeper just stands there.”

With each match mattering more in a shortened regular season — 10 matches this season compared to 20-plus in a normal fall slate, Hedlund said the team feels more pressure to score.

“I just think [the players] need to relax more in front of the goal,” Hedlund said. “In practice, the shots are falling and in warmups, the shots are falling, but in games, it’s maybe a little bit unlucky sometimes. […] I think they just need to relax a little bit more, pick the corner they want and the goals will start to come.”

If North Texas is able to begin converting on more of its opportunities, Hedlund said the team’s ceiling will rise much higher.

“If the goals come, this will be a really good team,” Hedlund said. “We will win the C-USA tournament and go on to the NCAAs and maybe make a run if the goals come. If they don’t, then it could be anybody’s game. That’s just the way soccer works, you could totally dominate a team and still lose, that’s the sport we’re in.”

Featured Image: Freshmen midfielder Devyn Flannery passes the ball to Mean Green teammate before an Oklahoma State defender steals the ball on March 14, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

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