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Soccer Team Finds Stride as Byrd Soars

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Article Originally Published by Paul Witwer on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Paul Witwer on North Texas Daily

Soccer was tied 0-0 against Abilene Christian University going into the 70th minute. Then suddenly, junior forward Allie Byrd broke through the defense and scored the team’s first goal in the 74th minute. Not even 10 minutes later, Byrd got another opportunity to score. In the 80th minute, she took the ACU defender head-on and scored the team’s second and final goal of the game.

The Mean Green (6-2-2) has had a strong season thus far, with Byrd being a consistent contributor on offense. For her three goals and two assists against ACU and Stephen F. Austin University the week prior, Byrd won Conference USA player of the week on Sept. 16 and received praise from her teammates for the accomplishment.

“I think Allie’s a really key piece to this team,” junior defender Quincy Sheppard said. “She’s lead us to a lot of victories and through a lot of tough times. She’s just a standout on this team, and we need her to win championships.”

Redshirt junior forward Hanna Banks echoed the same sentiments as Sheppard, praising Byrd’s ability on the field and the confidence her presence brings the rest of the team.

“I think dribbling [is her best skill],” redshirt junior forward Hanna Banks said. “She can keep the ball close to her all the time; I don’t know, it’s like the ball sticks to her. She’s the definition of a good forward [and] a good teammate. She’s always there for everyone.”

Byrd appreciated the accolade but believes that the help her teammates gave her was just as instrumental in winning the match.

“[C-USA player of the week] does mean a lot to me, but I know that those come with other things,” Byrd said. “That came with my teammates helping me out, so yes, it is a big accomplishment for me personally, but I’m glad for that weekend our team got two solid wins.”

Byrd has five goals 10 games into this season, already surpassing her three goals from the previous season, two assists and has a shot on goal percentage of .500, which is better than her 2020 season mark. In addition, Byrd said that her increased confidence is something that improved this year.

“I think I’m more confident now that I’m older and not an underclassman anymore,” Byrd said. “I kind of have a new role on the team, and I have to be more confident so that it will transfer into everyone else’s play. Because if you see someone else playing well, you want to match their energy.”

While Byrd said confidence is the biggest reason for her success this season, other factors helped her improve as a player.

“I think I’m starting to slow down my game and stop rushing things,” Byrd said. “I think making better decisions is helping with that. My mindset is to play as well as I can [and] as long as I go out there and play my best performance, I think that everything will fall into place.”

Despite her season’s success, Byrd did not score in the past two games. In the most recent game against the University of Texas-El Paso, Byrd only played 34 minutes, her lowest of the season, and attributed that to simply having a bad game.

“I think that game I would say I was off from the start, and the players coming in were [playing well],” Byrd said. “They were doing the right things – they were pressing, they were getting things done, and I feel that particular game, it was their game [and] not so much mine. I’m just overall happy we got the win, but sometimes it just goes like that.”

Byrd’s teammates praised her calm but goofy personality despite the off performance, which helped the team through their first two division games.

“Everybody loves Allie,” Sheppard said. “She’s really goofy, everybody can get along with her, everybody can vibe with her and she’s really just a personality.”

Banks shared the same feelings toward Allie as Sheppard, reiterating how her honest yet goofy personality helped the team throughout the week.

“[She’s] very genuine, very honest [and] goofy.” Banks said. “Just fun to be around. She makes practice’s fun, meeting’s fun, everything fun.”

Featured Image: Forward Allie Byrd dribbles around her defender during a game against the University of Texas-El Paso on September 19, 2021. Photo by Zach Del Bello

Source: North Texas Daily

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