When talking about one of the best soccer programs not only in the state of Texas but in the region, one needs not go any farther than Denton. The North Texas women’s soccer program has been a model of consistency since its beginning and is reaching new heights each and every year. When you look at wins, since 1995 North Texas has won 181 games, which is the 14th most in nation during that time period.
That’s more wins than programs such as SMU, Virginia, USC, Clemson, Florida State, and Stanford.
The Mean Green has won at least 15 games in each of the past five seasons and shows no signs of slowing down.
With seven starters and 13 lettermen returning from last year’s team that won 15 games and advanced to its eighth straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship, another deep run for the Mean Green appears likely.
North Texas also has the luxury of hosting the conference tournament this season and has its sights set on a return to the NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps no team in the region, much less the Sun Belt Conference, packs more of a punch when it comes to talent than North Texas has at the forward position. The Mean Green has the outstanding one-two punch of senior Brittany Cleveland and junior Kendall Juett.
These two players combined for 19 goals last season and 55 total points for the North Texas offense. Juett was first-team all-conference last season and there is no doubt she is one of the top players in the Sun Belt Conference.
Cleveland is coming off a career season in which she netted 11 goals and finds herself on the verge of breaking into the top 10 all-time at North Texas. She enters the season tied for 10th in goals, coincidentally with Juett, and is just six points shy of climbing into the top 10 in points.
Juett, one of the most potent offensive players, is in the top 10 in goals, assists, points, and shots at North Texas after just two seasons. Her presence allowed for more opportunities for Cleveland and that shouldn’t change this season.
Kelsey Pearlman, from Allen High School, scored 23 goals and had 15 assists her senior season en route to being named the District 9-5A Player of the Year. She was also named to the prestigious Dallas Morning News All-Area team.
Casey Lerond was a three-time all-district performer and played for the North Texas Olympic Development Program State Team for two years. Her club team, Texans Red, was ranked No. 1 nationally, No. 1 in Region II and No. 1 in North Texas.
If there was one area of the North Texas lineup that showed its depth last season, it was here. Ravaged by injuries, the Mean Green looks forward to erasing those memories in 2008.
Speedster Gennifer Hurst returns for her senior season and is 100 percent which gives North Texas another dangerous threat roaming the middle of the field. She made the transition last season from defender and notched her second career goal in the process.
Sophomores Danielle Herron and Lindsay Lackore will help anchor the center of the field. Herron played in all 23 games last season and had a game-winning game. Lackore had an injury cut short her brilliant freshman campaign after just 11 games.
Along with the youth, Coach John Hedlund has experience in the midfield position to rely upon. Veronica Ayala and Katy Booth round out the returners at the midfield spot. Ayala had a breakout season last year with six goals and 14 points. Booth was one of the most reliable players for North Texas in the middle. Katie Wendling should also see action this season as she switches from a defender.
This group might be defined by not whose returning but who’s arriving at North Texas. Highlighting this group is the return of Kelli Lunsford who missed the entire 2007 season with an injury. The 2005 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year is healthy and looking to return to her old form that has seen her score 12 goals and rack up 15 points in two seasons.
The experience will be provided by seniors Amanda Mitchell, Amanda Johnson, and junior Jacy Wicker. Mitchell stepped up last season when injuries ate away at the Mean Green’s depth provided a consistent backer. Johnson was a steady force on the backline for North Texas last season and will be counted on for more of the same this season.
North Texas fans only caught a glimpse at what Wicker can do in the backfield as she missed the majority of the season last year with an injury after eight games, but is back at 100 percent for this season.
The rest is made up of some of the most heralded freshman to arrive on campus. Headlining the group is Kara Brooks from L.D. Bell High School. Brooks was named the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Player of the Year and to the Dallas Morning News All-Area team. Brooks scored 33 goals and had 14 assists and was named the District 7-5A Player of the Year for the second straight season.
Joining her will be fellow freshman Hanna Crawford, Shannon Gorrie, Julie Lackey and Erin Montgomery who should all see time this season for North Texas.
With just two goalkeepers on the roster and no upperclassmen, one might think this is a position of concern for Coach Hedlund but nothing could be farther from the truth. Sophomore Mandy Hall returns after seeing action in 16 games and is entrenched as the starter after making 49 saves. Hall can expect some healthy competition from top recruit Jillian Wright.
The freshman arrives in Denton with impressive credentials. She was named to the Dallas Morning News All-Area soccer team her senior season and to the 2008 TASCO All-State and All-Region team. Wright was the District 11-4A Co-Defensive Most Valuable Player.
The 2008 schedule, which is highlighted by a school record 12-home games, has visits from Oklahoma and Xavier. In addition to the 12 regular season home games, the Mean Green hosts the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the first time in school history.
"I’m very excited about our schedule this year, playing challenging teams such as OU, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Xavier should really help prepare us going into the Sun Belt Conference late in the season," said coach Hedlund.
Since the 2000 season, the Mean Green has been nearly flawless in defending its home field with a record of 62-4-5.
North Texas opens the season with an exhibition match on August 16 against Texas Tech in Lubbock. The Mean Green then return home for the annual Alumni game on August 23. The regular season starts with five straight home matches for North Texas on August 29 with Louisiana Tech. Two days later it’s the first-ever meeting with Xavier and then on Friday, September 5 the Oklahoma Sooners visit Denton.
North Texas closes out its home stand to start the season against East Tennessee State on September 12. The Mean Green then hits the road for five straight games which includes a matchup with Baylor on September 19 before the beginning of Sun Belt Conference play on September 26 at Louisiana-Lafayette.
North Texas finishes the season with five straight home games before hosting the conference tournament November 5-8 at the North Texas Soccer Field.