DENTON, Texas (9/5/08) To say Kelli Lunsford is back in 2008 might be an understatement after her Friday evening heroics at the North Texas Soccer Field. The junior midfielder scored the game-tying and game-winning goals as the Mean Green came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat the Oklahoma Sooners 3-2 in overtime. The win improves North Texas’ record to 3-0 on the season and adds to their stellar home record to 65-4-5 over the past nine seasons.
“I’m so proud of the girls tonight,” head coach John Hedlund said. “Even when they got behind they stayed positive. Give OU a ton of credit, they showed a tremendous amount of character. We made some changes right before the end of the first half to get our starters some rest and they (Oklahoma) came at us hard. At the eight minute mark I decided to move Kelli up and she came through for us. This is just a huge win.”
Lunsford, who missed most of last season due to injury, tied the game 2-2 in regulation in the 83rd minute, when she blasted a kick from about 35 yards out that sailed over the outstretched arms of Oklahoma’s goalie Lisa Jett. Then in overtime the Sooners tried to clear the ball but it went right to Lunsford, well past the top of the box, where Lunsford took another shot from 20 plus yards out and nailed it for the game winner.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Lunsford said afterward. “We didn’t get down on ourselves and we knew we had to just keep a positive attitude. We’ve been down before in the past and we knew we still could come back.”
North Texas scored the first goal of the contest in the 19th minute off a corner kick and freshman forward Kelsey Pearlman skied through the air to head it in the back of the net. The goal was Pearlman’s second of the season.
Oklahoma (1-3) came roaring back, scoring two goals within a 10-minute span at the end of the first half. Sophomore forward Whitney Palmer scored her third goals in as many games in the 35th minute, taking a pass from Ashley Farrand and beating North Texas goalkeeper Mandy Hall in front of the box. The Sooners then tacked on another goal, scoring off a corner kick in the 44th minute when Abbey Golliher scored her first career goal off a deflection.
The evening though belonged to Lunsford, who began the season making the switch to defender but on this night it was her offense that shined.
“It’s so awesome just to see her playing again,” Hedlund said. “To not have her playing last year really hurt us. We just want to try and keep her healthy this season because we know she’s capable of having a game like this tonight.”
North Texas outshot Oklahoma 13-10 and Mandy Hall won her third game of the season, making two saves. The game was also pretty physical with both teams combining for 27 fouls.
The Mean Green will next host UTSA (2-3) Sunday at 1 p.m. at the North Texas Soccer Field. The Roadrunners are coming off a 3-0 loss at the hands of the Longhorns Friday night.