Year in Review: A Look Back At The 2015 Season
North Texas Capped A Winning Campaign With An NCAA Appearance
Dec. 1, 2015
The North Texas soccer program has a winning tradition filled with championship teams, but the 2015 team may go down in the record books as the best in school history.
The Mean Green won a school-record 19 games, en route to winning back-to-back Conference USA regular-season titles. The team won its first C-USA Championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in school history. The 2015 team was ranked as high as No. 3 in the NSCAA central region poll and received votes in the national poll throughout the season.
North Texas won eight of its first nine games, highlighted by a 1-0 victory against TCU. The squad lost an overtime heatbreaker to No. 15 Texas A&M but bounced back to win eight of 10 conference games to captured its second straight regular-season title.
As the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, North Texas scored early goals in each of its three games and then relied on its defense to preserve the three victories. The conference tournament championship was the first since 2012 and the first as a member of Conference USA.
North Texas faced Texas Tech in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in a rematch of the 2012 NCAA game. Despite a few opportunities in the first half, the Mean Green was unable to score against the Red Raiders and came up short in a 1-0 loss.
The team was led by eight seniors, seven of which were starters and four-year letterwinners. The longest-tenured player on the team was Jackie Kerestine, who returned for her fifth year after receiving a medical redshirt. After shattering all of the career goalkeeping records last year as a junior, Kerestine came back with more to prove.
In 2015, Kerestine broke her own records for shutouts and wins in a season with 15 shutouts and 19 wins. She was named Goalkeeper of the Week five times, including a stretch of three straight. She posted three shutouts in the conference tournament and was rewarded with Defensive MVP honors. The redshirt senior led the conference and was ranked in the top 10 nationally in shutouts, save percentage and goals against average. She was named first-team all-conference for the first time in her career.
The defense in front of Kerestine was just as passionate about shutouts as she was. The backline set a team record with 16 shutouts. Seniors Tess Graham and Molly Grisham were paired together in the central defense for the first time in their careers and they played as if they has been playing together for years. They were both rewarded with third-team all-conference honors.
Carissa Sanders was one of the few freshman to break into the starting lineup. She started 20 games in the back and fit right in with the physical mentality of the backline. Sophomores Chelsei Soto and Kelsi Slaughter were also part of the Mean Green defense that held opponents to just 10 goals all season.
Seniors Lindsey Hulstein and Jackie Moreau also contributed to the Mean Green's solid defense. The duo sat right in front of the defense and clogged up the middle as defensive midfielders. The two were four-year letterwinners who did a lot of the dirty work for the Mean Green with not a lot of recognition.
Returning for her senior year was offensive midfielder Karla Pineda. After a stellar junior season, Pineda's performance just continued to climb for her final season. She received Midfielder of the Year honors after posting eight assists to go along with seven goals. Pineda was the Mean Green's set-piece specialist. She was just as skillful dishing out the assist as she was putting the ball in the net herself. The senior had numerous game-winning goals including a set-piece gamewinner against TCU and a long lofted shot against Rice that went over the goalkeeper's head.
Amber Haggerty finished her career strong with five goals in 2015. One of the biggest goals of her career came in the conference championship game against Marshall. She scored the early goal that ended up being the gamewinner, sending the Mean Green to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
The trip to the NCAA Tournament was a final chapter for the Mean Green seniors after seven of them had started their journey together with an NCAA appearance as freshmen in 2012. In that game against Texas Tech, six of those players were starters. It took four years of hard work, but the group returned to Lubbock again in 2015.
The 2015 team would not have been as successful without the offensive power of Rachel Holden. The junior returned in force in 2015, scoring 12 goals. The 12 goals tied the total from her freshman year. Eight of the 12 goals scored in 2015 were gamewinners. The junior finished the season with a slew of honors, including C-USA Co-Offensive Player of the Year, first-team all-conference and conference tournament offensive MVP honors.
Holden was joined up front by speedy freshman Taylor Torres and junior Marchelle Davis. Torres was another freshman who saw significant playing time. She posted 10 points in her freshman campaign and was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team.
Davis had another successful season for the Mean Green after transferring in from the University of Texas. She finished fourth on the team with four goals. The speed and quality finish of the Mean Green attack was tough for opponents to keep up with. North Texas led the conference in goals and points.
The combination of the Mean Green's potent offense and the physical mentality of the defense was a lethal one, leading to 19 wins and a championship season.
The one constant of all the Mean Green teams is head coach John Hedlund. The 2015 season was his 21st straight winning season. His 21-year combined record stands at 299-115-26 - a .709 winning percentage. His win total is the most of any North Texas coach in any sport at North Texas.