The 2021 North Texas soccer season has been an up and down affair, with steep highs and confusing lows. However, the team still controls their playoff destiny and is trying to fix their biggest flaw as the regular season comes to an end.
“We’ve got to finish our chances,” assistant coach Dylan Burnett said. “That’s the biggest thing on paper when you’re shooting 20-30 times and not bagging the clear-cut chances.”
The offense hit a bit of a dry spell, with zero total goals in double overtime and overtime matches against Southern Mississippi University and the University of Texas-San Antonio, before exploding for five goals against Florida International in their last match. Prior to the game against Florida International, fifth-year midfielder Elle Marie DeFrain said the team has been focused on improving their scoring.
“We haven’t scored in the last couple games,” DeFrain said. “This whole week of practice, we’ve been getting some extra work and getting extra touches on the ball, as well as getting extra shots on goal.”
Team captain Brooke Lampe echoed DeFrain’s comments on the focus on scoring, saying that the team felt discontent after not being able to pull a win out of the games against Southern Mississippi and UTSA.
“It’s frustrating going into overtime,” Lampe said. “We took those games and we’ve learned from them. We’re just going to move forward because there’s nothing that we can do to change what happened in those games.”
The team’s record currently sits at 7-3-3, putting them in third place in their division. There are three games left before the Conference USA tournament, with all of them against division opponents. The Mean Green will play the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers, the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs and the Rice University Owls, with Rice currently sitting ahead of them in the standings.
The top four teams in each division qualify for the C-USA Women’s Soccer Championship. To make the tournament, North Texas will need to win or tie in their matches, because the standings are tightly knit. The last place University of Texas-El Paso Miners are still in the race with three points. Rice, who is in first place, has nine points. Standings can be turned on a dime with the records being so close.
“There are a lot of really good teams in our conference,” Lampe said. “It’s really gonna come down to who wants it more.”
Burnett thinks that the team needs to stay tough and vigilant under the pressure they have, being one of the premier programs in the conference.
“Every game we go into at home or on the road, we have a giant target on our back and everyone’s giving us their best,” Burnett said. “Being mentally tough in these matches is crucial, so we can finish where we feel we deserve to be.”
Some notable players that the Mean Green will be looking to in the last three games will be Lampe heading the defense, as well as sophomore midfielder Taylor Tufts and junior forward Madi Drenowatz. Lampe has been on the pitch for more minutes than any other player on the team, showing how valuable the team sees her. Tufts holds the team lead in points with 18 and has taken more shots than anyone else. Drenowatz has an eye for the goal, leading the team in both goals and shooting percentage with 7 goals on 25.9 percent shooting.
Burnett believes that everything is falling in place for a playoff run for North Texas, but they need to stay focused on the team’s goals and toughness as a unit.
“We have the pieces to the championship-winning program, just like history has provided,” Burnett said. “We just need to be a little mentally tough in this last home stretch, because nothing is given to us.”
Featured Image: The North Texas soccer team huddles on the field at the Mean Green Soccer and Track & Field Stadium in Denton on Oct. 8, 2021. Photo by Zach Del Bello