MOBLE, Alabama - The North Texas women's soccer team got a goal from Amber Haggerty in the 23rd minute and a strong performance from its defense to snuff out repeated second-half attacks for a 1-0 win over Western Kentucky, Friday afternoon in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinals.
The win sends North Texas, the top seed in the tournament, to its ninth Sun Belt Tournament championship game and first since 2007. The Mean Green will be playing for their third league-tournament title in their last game in the Sun Belt Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Mobile.
The victory also avenges a 2-0 loss at Western Kentucky, the tournament's No 4 seed, in the Mean Green's final game of the regular season.
"It's always a battle between these two programs, WKU is one of the better defensive teams we have played all year," head coach John Hedlund said. "They're very well coached. I think everyone knew it would be a one goal game either way. We are happy to move on to the finals."
North Texas (15-4-2 overall, 8-1-1 in Sun Belt play) applied pressure early and had the better of the play in the first half, out-shooting WKU (12-5-3, 6-1-3) 11-4 and enjoying a 5-1 advantage in corners kicks. Haggerty got two shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, forcing a diving save, and Carly McDowell and Leah Cox also each had a pair of shots on goal. But it was a mistake by the Hilltoppers that opened the door for the game's only goal.
In the 23rd minute, WKU tried to play the ball back to its goalkeeper. The pass was lazy and Haggerty cut in front of the Hilltopper defender, stole the ball and lifted it over the goalkeeper. It was Haggerty's seventh goal of the season.
The Western Kentucky counter-attacking offense, however, was finding little success generating scoring chances. Even as WKU sent an extra attacker forward in the second half, pressing for a tying goal, the Mean Green defense kept the Hilltoppers from threatening the North Texas goal area. North Texas limited the Hilltoppers to just three shots in the second half and those came from long distance, which Mean Green goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine handled cleanly. The Mean Green had four shots in the second half for a 15-7 edge in shots for the match.
North Texas will face FIU in Sunday's championship final. North Texas tied FIU at home earlier this season.
It can be seen via SunBeltSports.org.