Dominant defense has Mean Green soccer rolling towards C-USA four-peat

Dominant defense has Mean Green soccer rolling towards C-USA four-peat

Dominant defense has Mean Green soccer rolling towards C-USA four-peat
October 09
23:01 2017

Defense wins championships.

Sure, it is a cliche. But like most cliches, there is some truth behind it.

If this cliche in particular is true, the North Texas soccer team might be on well on its way to winning its fourth straight regular-season Conference USA title.

The Mean Green are 9-2-2 this season, thanks in large part to their defense. The unit has surrendered just nine goals on 165 shots through 13 games this season, and the .669 goals against average currently rank No. 33 in the country. North Texas has seven shutouts, ranking No. 34 with a .538 shutout percentage.

The quartet of junior Carissa Sanders and sophomores Madeline Guderian, Dominique Jones and Brittnye Lawson played their first game together on the backline this season against Indiana University and allowed three goals in a tie. But the group has allowed only two goals in the six games since and has progressed because their ability to communicate has gotten better.

“We are communicating a lot with each other,” Guderian said. “When we mess up, we have each other’s back and we do not get mad at each other. We just say, ‘Pick them up next time.'”

The four girls who now regularly man the backline were not originally paired to together at the start of the season. The adjustments made by coach Hedlund and his staff for the Indiana game culminated into one of the top defenses in the country.

“Coming into camp, I had no idea what to expect,” Lawson said. “We got put together during a game, Dom [James], went center back and Maddie [Guderian] went outside and it has been like that ever since.”

Guderian, Lawson and Jones started their friendship in the dorms as freshmen, building a connection through living together while also growing as a trio on the field. The now-sophomores met with Sanders through practices and team dinners, and the rest is history.

Sanders is the veteran of the group and has been a part of the last two C-USA championships. She was also with the team during its last NCAA tournament appearance in 2015. Sanders has played with other great defenses in her career, but sees potential through what the current team has shown.

“We’re playing pretty well,” Sanders said. “We’re slowly starting to build a chemistry and figuring each other out. We definitely have a lot of speed.”

Having that speed is crucial for a defender in soccer. An opposing team’s forward could sneak through the defense, but possessing speed provides a safety net to keep them from scoring. It’s one of the things coach John Hedlund loves about his defense and why they are so difficult to score against.

“It’s the chemistry between the four and the speed,” Hedlund said. “Every player back there has great speed. They are hard to beat and they are hard to get behind. To be honest, they have been our most consistent unit all year, and they have been our backbone of our team.”

The Mean Green are clicking on all cylinders, and the constant communication between the four defenders and junior goalkeeper Brooke Bradley is helping the team dominate during games.

Beyond the solid communication, one of the ways this defense is stopping its opponents is through tough, physical play. The Mean Green have 110 fouls through 13 games, demonstrating a brand of toughness and physicality North Texas wants to be known for.

“Yeah, we are [a physical team],” James said. “We’re kind of mean. Sometimes we have to be more careful than other times when we are in the box, but if we are in the midfield we are going to push you away from the goal.”

The accolades and stats are impressive for this current defense lineup, but the goal remains the same. There is only one thing on their minds as a unit – winning a fourth straight regular-season C-USA title.

“We’re just going to be remembered as the team that was a part of the four-peat,” Lawson said. “We’re going to keep trying to take this streak as far as we can.”

Featured Image: Sophomore defender Madeline Guderian changes direction during a game against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Rachel Walters

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Matthew Berger

Matthew Berger

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