End of Spring Season Report With John Hedlund
Head Coach Discusses Spring Season And Upcoming Fall
DENTON -- Following one of the most successful seasons in school history, North Texas head coach John Hedlund did not ease up on the pedal for the Mean Green's spring season.
He filled the short season with eight games, including one against an SEC team and another against a Big 12 squad. Hedlund, who is entering his 21st season as the North Texas head coach, also introduced two new systems to his team. Despite losing just five games in 2014, Hedlund saw areas where his team could improve.
Playing a new system, the Mean Green won all of its spring games except a 1-0 loss to Arkansas. North Texas had a big 3-1 home win against Baylor on April 12. The annual Alumni Game on April 18th capped the spring season for the Mean Green.
Coach Hedlund sat down with MeanGreenSports.com to answer a few questions about his spring season and the upcoming fall season.
What were your goals for the spring?
JH: My No. 1 goal was to work on a couple of systems that we want to play in the fall. I wanted to see how that worked with the players that we have right now in the spring and how they can adapt to a couple of new systems that I think will really work for us in the fall.
I also wanted to give everyone a lot of playing time. There were a few on the team from last year that did not get to play a lot and with the starters that came back from the fall, playing several spring games and building team chemistry was essential. I also wanted them to understand the systems we are trying to play because it's all new to them.
I thought our spring was a huge success. There's two systems that we now have in place going into the fall. All the players on the team really love these two systems that I can go back and forth with. They feel real comfortable about playing them, and it showed. We beat Baylor, 3-1, using both systems throughout the game.
Who played really well during the spring?
JH: The midfield. Our new system is a little different for the midfielders. We are asking Lindsey Hulstein and Libby Murphy to be attacking midfielders along with Karla Pineda. That's where we tweaked the system. Lindsay and Libby have mainly been defensive midfielders, and now we have asked them to be more attacking mids. That has helped get more players involved in the attack. So, that was a big surprise for us. We didn't know how they were going to react, but both of them played extremely well.
I thought the chemistry was good up top between players like Rachel Holden, Amber Haggerty and Anna Flobeck. A huge surprise we found was tinkering with Molly Grisham and Tess Graham playing in the back together. They played off each other extremely well. Tori is adapting well to playing outside. Jackie Moreau is the lone defensive midfielder and she played really well.
You can tell by listening to me that the spring was really beneficial because we were moving players around to see if these two systems would work and they have. And the players have adjusted really well to it. It was like putting a puzzle together. Is this piece going to fit?
Are we going to see any players changing positions?
JH: We were set on going with Tori Phillips and Tess through the spring in the back to build the chemistry. Tori was injured one game and I put Molly back there, and I remember a couple of players coming up to me afterwards, saying "Molly looks really good back there." Everyone has to feel comfortable in their roles. It's not just the person that you are putting in that spot.
We actually call Molly and Tess the "crunch sisters" because they are so physical. I think it's a nice combination. Molly reads the game really well and can organize the back, and Tess brings the speed which enables her to run down most offensive players.
I like Tori on the outside which gets her more involved in the offense and because of her speed we can even play her at top throughout the game. We moved Chelsea Soto from right to left. She has a pretty strong left foot which enable her to hit balls down the line or switch the field.
Can you talk about the Baylor game?
JH: Out of all the games we played this spring, the Baylor game is the one I'm most proud of the girls. Baylor is very physical. They have a style of play that is very hard to play against because they are very direct, play with a ton of energy and try to disrupt everything you want to do as a team. They are very intense and they high pressure throughout the game. We didn't back off at all. In fact, we were probably just as physical as they were.
We didn't let their type of game disrupt what we were trying to do. The girls never gave up on the system we were playing and they didn't let Baylor get into their heads. To me, that is a sign of champion. This is such a veteran squad now that has seen everything.
I told the team that you are going to run into these teams in the fall. You can't change for them. You have to play your game and stick with it. You have to battle through adversity.
Thoughts on Alumni Game
JH: The alumni game was really special to me because there were a lot of players that I haven't seen in years. There were seven or eight players from the very first class that I coached in 1995. It was just as rewarding seeing those players as winning a conference championship. They really set the tone for this program. That is how we were able to win a lot of those conference championships. They were the pioneers.
It was great to see my former players up here and them seeing all of the things that have changed with the facilities, the meeting room, the locker room. They didn't have any of this during their time here. They were playing there over by the Beer Barn. They were really happy for us. It was them that really got this all started. I hope they come back every year. We can make this bigger and better every year. I want to see my players on this team now mingle with the alumni and share experiences. That is going to help the players on the roster.
You have a lot of newcomers coming in the fall. How do you see them contributing?
JH: There are some really special players coming in for the fall. It's hard to say how many of them will start because we are really loaded with upper classmen going into the fall. On paper, this could be my most talented team. Now what they do from there, I don't know. The one thing they give me is tremendous depth. I have a solid seven or eight coming off the bench. The competition is going to be brutal in the fall. We are nearly 2 deep in every spot. I don't know if I could say that since I've been here.
Depth is going to help us at the conference championships. You are playing three games in five days. That won't faze us if we have seven or eight players coming off the bench.
What do you like about your upcoming 2015 schedule?
JH: I like the fact that Rice is coming here. That is going to be a nice rivalry between the two programs for the next several years pretty much how it was with us and Denver in the Sun Belt Conference. Last year we won the regular season title with them winning the tournament title.