DENTON - After nine straight years of nothing but success one might think that the North Texas women’s soccer team would need a year to rebuild. However under head coach John Hedlund North Texas doesn’t rebuild, they reload.
Returning nine starters from a team that tied the school record for wins last season with 15, the Mean Green are poised to make a run at the Sun Belt Conference Title and the NCAA tournament. The Mean Green returns an offensive arsenal that will be the most potent in the Sun Belt Conference. North Texas averaged 3.27 goals a game last season, tops in the conference. The North Texas defense will also be strong after recording a eight shutouts last season.
Leading the way for North Texas will be senior forward Melinda Pina. She was named to the Sun Belt Conference first-team and the Sun Belt Conference All-Tournament team. Pina turned in a career-best season last year as she recorded career-highs in goals (21), points (47), points per game (2.13), game-winning goals (7), and shots (73). Pina tied for sixth in the nation with 21 goals and 15th in the nation with 2.13 points per game. Pina also became the first player since 1997 to record back-to-back hat trick’s in consecutive games.
Complementing Pina in the offensive attack will be sophomore’s Kristen Campbell and Melissa Chapman. Campbell scored the game-winning goal against nationally ranked Denver and Chapman recorded a hat trick in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Junior forward Richelle Magalhaes also returns to give North Texas speed and skill at the forward position. Magalhaes was second on the team in assists last season and will be counted on heavily to keep the pressure off Pina.
While the North Texas offensive will be in dangerous, the Mean Green defense is also in fine hands. Starting with the goalkeeper, North Texas returns an experience defensive unit. Goalkeeper Briana Buchanan recorded the second most shutouts in a single season with seven last year and had a shutout streak of 214 minutes. Buchanan has a wealth of experience in front of her lead by senior defender Krista Georgas. Georgas started every game last season and is one of the top defenders in the conference.
The midfielder’s will be guided by senior Caree Ridenour. She was named to the Sun Belt Conference All-Tournament team and is poised for a stellar senior season. She will have help from seniors Elaine Bacchus and Alyssa Carrier who will provide the leadership up front for North Texas .
Coach Hedlund will welcome five newcomers to the squad this fall, including four high school recruits and one transfer. The high school prospects include forwards Heather Hutyra, Danielle Slovanic, midfielder Lauren Weller, and goalkeeper Kandice Ellis. Forward Jamie Yates joins North Texas after one season with the University of Dayton where she scored six goals and had 13 points.
The 2004 schedule is highlighted by home games against Baylor, Houston, and metroplex rival SMU. The Mean Green will open the season on Sunday August 29 against Houston.
"Once again I believe are non-conference schedule should prepare us to make another run at a conference title," said North Texas head coach John Hedlund.
North Texas also has non-conference road games against Texas A&M, Rice, and Southwest Missouri State . The Mean Green open up Sun Belt Conference play on September 29 against Arkansas-Little Rock. North Texas will visit defending conference champion Denver on October 8 and close out conference play against FIU on October 31 at home.
The 2004 Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be held November 3-6 in Miami , Fla. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.