Article Originally Published by John Fields on North Texas Daily
Article Originally Published by John Fields on North Texas Daily
With teams competing in 12 different Division I sports, North Texas has squads playing in a variety of sports throughout the school year and even after it is finished.
After more than a year altered by COVID-19, these teams will look to return to more normalcy this upcoming season and compete for championships against their Conference USA foes. Students have a chance to watch just about all of these sports compete for no additional cost as tickets are included with their tuition, so maybe one of these sports will intrigue you enough to check them out this upcoming year.
Below is a rundown of each sport’s performance last season and where they stand heading into the 2021-22 school year.
Set to kick off its 2021 campaign on Sept. 4 at home versus Northwestern State University, football (4-6, 3-4 C-USA in 2020) is coming off an up-and-down season altered by the pandemic.
Having lost star wide receiver Jaelon Darden to the NFL Draft, North Texas will look for solutions at wideout and on the defensive side of the ball. Two returners at running back in senior DeAndre Torrey and sophomore Oscar Adaway will look to dominate on the ground. The Mean Green ranked last in C-USA in almost every defensive statistic last season but will look to right the ship with new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett.
Some key games to watch come against Southern Methodist University (Sept. 11 in Dallas), the University of Missouri (Oct. 9 in Columbia, Missouri) and the University of Texas-San Antonio (Nov. 27 in Denton).
Coming off the first NCAA tournament win in program history, head coach Grant McCasland’s squad (18-10, 9-5 C-USA last season) lost seven players this offseason, including three starters.
Senior guard James Reese transferred to the University of South Carolina while senior point guard Javion Hamlet and senior forward Zachary Simmons decided to pursue professional careers. Returning starters Mardrez McBride and Thomas Bell are joined by four other returners and a plethora of newcomers headlined by University of Washington transfer Hameir Wright and Coffeyville Community College transfer Tylor Perry.
While men’s basketball has not yet released its full schedule, it will open its season on Nov. 25-28 against a loaded tournament field at the ESPN Events Invitational. The Mean Green will play three games there starting with a Nov. 25 bout with Kansas University.
After setting a program record for C-USA wins last season, women’s basketball (13-7, 10-4 C-USA last season) returns three of its five most frequent starters from last season.
Point guard N’yah Boyd (Oklahoma State University) and forward Rochelle Lee (North Carolina A&T State University) left via the transfer portal, but junior guard Quincy Noble returns after averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game last season. The Mean Green will look to rebound from a first-round exit in the C-USA tournament to Old Dominion University last season.
Although its non-conference slate is not yet finalized, women’s basketball will open C-USA play with three-straight road games against Rice University (Jan. 1), the University of Alabama-Birmingham (Jan. 6) and Middle Tennessee State University (Jan. 8).
Following its one-of-a-kind spring 2021 campaign brought on by COVID-19, volleyball (11-11, 6-6 C-USA) has a quicker than normal turnaround to its season this fall.
Having won four-straight C-USA matches to qualify for the conference tournament, North Texas ended last season with a loss to top-seeded Western Kentucky University. The Mean Green return 12 of 16 players from last season’s roster, losing three impactful seniors in outside hitter Barbara Martin, outside hitter Valerie Valerian and middle blocker Miranda Youmans. Senior setter Kaliegh Skopal will return for a fifth season, however, along with the team’s two main liberos and the team’s kills leader in senior outside hitter Rhett Robinson (352 kills last season).
Volleyball will begin its season with four non-conference tournaments, including two home events in the North Texas Invite (Aug. 27 and 28) and North Texas Challenge (Sept. 10 and 11).
After a unique spring season of its own, soccer (7-3-1, 4-1-1 C-USA) will return to the field this fall starting with an Aug. 11 exhibition match versus Texas A&M University.
With 11 players gone from last season’s roster, soccer returns 10 of the 14 who started at least five games. Eight of the team’s top nine players in points also return. Redshirt-junior goalkeeper Kelsey Brann is gone, but Vanderbilt University transfer Sarah Fuller looks primed to step into the starting keeper role. Fuller made headlines last fall as the first woman to play in and score during a Power Five conference football game for Vanderbilt.
Eight-time C-USA champions, the soccer team will look to avenge its first-round loss in the C-USA tournament last season. The Mean Green will face a pair of Big 12 opponents in Baylor University (Sept. 2 in Denton) and Oklahoma University (Sept. 5 in Norman, Oklahoma) before opening C-USA play on March 7 at Rice University.
With a 6-13 campaign and first-round exit from the C-USA tournament in the books, tennis will look to improve this year with five of its six most consistent players returning.
While senior Nidhi Surapaneni left for Hawaii University as a graduate transfer, the Mean Green will add three incoming freshmen to their five returners. Senior Lucie Devier will look to lead the way after being named C-USA Newcomer of the Year last season. Devier and returning sophomore Saki Oyama were also named to the All-Conference USA Doubles Second Team.
Although the Mean Green have not released their 2021-22 schedule just yet, they typically play against several non-conference opponents throughout the fall and spring with conference play exclusively in the spring.
After setting a program record for wins last spring and winning the C-USA regular season title, softball (38-10, 18-2 C-USA last season) will look to break through and win the conference tournament this coming spring.
The Mean Green lost star pitcher Hope Trautwein this offseason when she transferred to the University of Oklahoma in June. Trautwein threw what is believed to be the first 21-strikeout perfect game in NCAA history on April 11 against the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and was named the C-USA Pitcher of the Year last spring. Although an updated roster has not been released yet, North Texas will lose six players to graduation and at least three to the transfer portal with its upcoming signing class still in the works.
Softball has not released its schedule for the upcoming season but typically plays exclusively in the spring starting with non-conference play in February.
Men’s and Women’s Golf
Each coming off successful seasons in their own right, both men’s and women’s golf will look to build on their successes in their 2021-22 seasons.
For women’s golf, this means following up the first C-USA championship in program history while returning all but one player. The Mean Green also added a freshman from Prosper, Texas, and a sophomore transfer from Kansas University this offseason. Fifth-year senior Lauren Cox’s many program records will be missed, but the team does return senior Audrey Tan to the fold who won the C-USA Individual Title last season.
On the men’s side, North Texas will look to build on its runner-up finish at last season’s C-USA tournament while returning all eight of its players and adding a University of Oklahoma transfer with three years of eligibility left. Sophomore Vicente Marzilio will look to build on a freshman campaign that saw him lead the team in scoring average and win the C-USA Individual Title.
Women’s golf has not released its schedule yet but the men’s team will begin play on Sept. 13-15 with its home-hosted Maridoe Intercollegiate tournament. Both teams’ seasons will run through the fall and spring with their respective C-USA tournaments taking place in April.
Cross Country/Track and Field
For the running sports, cross country and track and field will look to continue improving this upcoming season.
Cross country will hope to return to normal this fall after competing in three events last fall due to the pandemic. The men’s team placed No. 4 out of 11 squads at the C-USA meet while the women placed No. 9 out of 13 squads.
Due to its season taking place in the spring, track and field was able to hold a full slate of competitions last season. At the C-USA Indoor Championships in February, the men’s team placed No. 2 while the women finished No. 8. At the C-USA outdoor meet in May, the men finished No. 4 and the women No. 9.
Neither squad has released a schedule for the upcoming season at this point but cross country will compete in the fall and track and field will run in the spring.
Swimming and Diving
The swim and dive team (2-2, 0-1 C-USA last season) will look to return to a more normal schedule in 2021-22 after last season was shortened to five regular season events.
After finishing No. 3 at the C-USA Swimming and Diving Championships — tying the program’s best finish ever — North Texas looks poised to return all but four of its athletes. While an updated roster has not yet been released, the Mean Green had four graduating seniors on last season’s roster with the rest looking set to return at this point. Senior Leigh Faires McGee medaled in the 100-meter free (No. 3) and 200-meter free (No. 2) at the C-USA meet and looks to have finished her career.
Swim and dive has not yet released its schedule but typically competes during the fall and spring with the C-USA meet held in late February to early March.
Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles
Source: North Texas Daily