A Season Of Firsts: Winning Two Conference Titles In 2004
The 2004 Team Won The Conference Tournament And Advanced To The NCAA's
With the majority of its team coming back after a record-breaking season in 2014, the North Texas soccer program is poised to make a run for its 10th conference championship in school history.
Every Thursday during the summer, MeanGreenSports.com is going look back at all nine conference championships. This week, we look at the second of two conference championships both won in 2004.
The 2004 season was a year in which the Mean Green soccer program jumped to a higher level. North Texas clinched its second regular-season title in program history, won its first conference tournament and then advanced to its first NCAA Tournament.
For the last three seasons, Mean Green soccer had advanced to the Sun Belt Conference Championship game and had lost to Denver. The 2004 team, and especially John Hedlund, were determined to break that streak.
North Texas would have to take care of South Alabama in the opening game of the conference tournament before potentially facing Denver in the semifinals. The Mean Green jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the 10th minute of play when senior forward Elaine Bacchus scored her third goal of the season off a corner kick from Kelly Adkins. The Jaguars tied the game at 1-1 in the 33rd minute of play in the first half.
Dani Slavonic scored the game-winning goal with three minutes left in regulation to advance the Mean Green. It was the first goal of her career.
Although it wasn't in the finals, North Texas snapped its losing streak to the Pioneers with a 3-0 victory in the semis. Alyssa Carrier opened the scoring, Heather Hutyra scored the second and Melinda Pina capped the scoring with a break-away goal.
"Denver has always been a thorn in our side, so obviously it feels good," said Hedlund after the game. "They are just a really good program, and we knew it would take a complete effort to beat them. It's just hard to single out a player because everybody just played phenomenal."
Carrier scored an even bigger goal in the finals. She scored the game's only goal off a header with eight seconds remaining to give North Texas a 1-0 victory against FIU. It had taken five tries, but North Texas finally had won its first conference tournament championship.
Carrier was named Tournament MVP and was named to the all-tournament team with her two goals in three games. One of the images that was captured from the tournament is of Carrier accepting the MVP trophy with a bandage above her eye.
Goalkeeper Briana Buchanan was also named to the all-tournament team. With the 1-0 victory, she recorded her 10th shutout of the season and her 15th win, two school records that would stand for 10 years.
North Texas also collected numerous season awards. John Hedlund received his first conference coach of the year award. Pina, Hutyra and Caree Ridenour were all named first-team all-conference, while senior defender Krista Georgas was named to the second team. Hutyra was also named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year. She was the first freshman to be named first-team all-conference since Marilyn Marin did in 2000.
Along with the conference tournament title, North Texas also received its first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Mean Green faced top-seeded Texas in Austin and could not keep up with the Longhorns firepower despite putting four shots on goal in the opening five minutes. Texas advanced past the Mean Green with a 3-0 victory.
North Texas finished the 2004 season with a 16-6-1 record. Only four Mean Green soccer teams in school history have recorded 16 wins. The 2014 squad was one of those four teams.