The Next Step
North Texas Takes On No. 18 Texas In NCAA First-Round
DENTON -- As Cat Sebazco sat in her chair in the Mean Green soccer team's meeting room and reminisced on her previous three years with the soccer team, she continuously fidgeted with her fingers.
Her championship rings from her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons covered her hand.
As she sat there she'd twist, touch and pick at them.
"They're a lot to carry around, both physically and metaphorically," she said jokingly. "The legacy we hope to leave when we graduate is not just one of champions but one that left the program better than when we were freshman and better than it has ever been."
Last Sunday, Sebazco and fellow senior Tori Phillips added to their ring collection and became the first senior class in North Texas history to win a conference championship all four years.
The program that now has a total of 13 conference championships in 23 years and five in the last four years, has another potential UNT first waiting for them in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday when they take on No. 18 Texas at 5 p.m. in Austin on the Longhorn Network.
The Mean Green will look to become the first program in school history to win a head-to-head NCAA Tournament game.
"It's the fuel to our fire going into this game," Phillips said. "Our team wants to not only make history but a serious run in the tournament."
For the North Texas soccer team it'll be its fifth trip to the tournament.
For Sebazco and Phillips, it'll be their second trip in three years.
In 2015 they fell 1-0 at Texas Tech. And though starting goalie Jackie Kerestine left the game before it started with an injury and the game got away from the Mean Green in the second half, it was the closest tournament match in program history.
North Texas had lost its first three tournament matches by a combined score of 7-0.
But Sebazco and Phillips believe this year is different than the previous years,
"In 2015 we were good enough to beat Tech," Phillips said. "This year's team is good enough to beat Texas and we're going to show that. The drive and experience Cat and I have had has been passed down and it's carrying this program."
Similar to in 2015, this year's Mean Green team has been elite on defense, giving up, .685 goals per match. But it's also been great on the offensive end, which is where Phillips and Sebazco might get their boost in confidence.
North Texas has scored the fifth-most goals in the country with 49 and takes the third-most shots per game with 19.86 per game.
Right there along Sebazco and Phillips' side has been the Mean Green freshmen.
"The freshmen have really stepped up our game, because of the encouragement from our seniors, coaches and the team as a whole," freshman Berklee Peters said. "Our chemistry has been important."
Five different freshmen have started at least one game and played in at least 18.
Lampe and Diaz scored in the C-USA tournament and Peters had a hat trick in September.
"The freshmen make up such a big part of the team it's important for them to be further along than usual," Sebazco said. "I believe the standard Tori and I have set and the expectations that we've left them have not just helped our season but the future."
Friday's match with the Longhorns however will be unlike any the freshmen have played before.
Though the two schools met in August in Denton and UT pulled out the 1-0 victory after a goal in the 82nd minute, Friday's match has larger implications on the line.
But the seniors aren't going to let the freshmen overthink it.
"The history that could be made doesn't effect how we look at the game," Phillips said. "The next step for this program is the Texas game."