The North Texas soccer team will be without one of its stars for the rest of its season, which will continue this weekend with matches against Sam Houston State and rival TCU.
Goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine injured her knee in a loss to Virginia Tech at the Wake Forest Invitational on Sunday and was replaced by Haley Riley.
“I feel for Jackie because she was off to another great season and played such a major role for us a year ago, winning both [the Sun Belt Conference’s regular-season and tournament] titles and going on to the NCAAs,” UNT coach John Hedlund said in a statement. “We will now have to adjust to not having her back there, but Haley will step in and I’m sure she will do a fine job.”
Riley backed up Kerestine last season and played nearly 62 minutes in two games last week, which helped her prepare for UNT’s upcoming matches, including the Mean Green’s key showdown at TCU at noon Sunday that will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.
That game will be part of a big weekend for the UNT soccer and volleyball programs.
The UNT soccer team will face Sam Houston at 7 tonight at the Mean Green Soccer Stadium, while the UNT volleyball team will host the North Texas Invitational at the Mean Green Volleyball Center.
The Mean Green volleyball team will open its lone home tournamnet of the year at noon today with a match against Prairie View A&M before taking on Utah at 7:30 p.m. UNT will face Northwestern State (11 a.m.) and Texas State (7:30 p.m.) on Saturday.
The Mean Green will enter the event riding a two-match winning streak after knocking off Albany in its final game at the Loyola Marymount tournament and rival Texas-Arlington in its home opener Tuesday.
Texas State is 5-0 on the year, while Utah is 3-0. Those teams will present two more challenging matches in a tough early slate for UNT that also included matches against 12th-ranked UCLA and Loyola Marymount.
The UNT soccer team faced a similarly tough tournament last weekend and came away with close losses to 10th-ranked Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
UNT took Wake Forest to double overtime before falling 2-1 and came back from a two-goal deficit before falling to Virginia Tech 4-2.
“We earned a lot of respect this weekend,” Hedlund said. “We are right on the verge of getting to where we need to be.”
UNT received one vote in this week’s National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll and will have a chance to bounce back from a pair of tough losses with games against Sam Houston and TCU.
“We are definitely looking forward to TCU,” freshman forward Rachel Holden said. “I am looking forward to it and the whole team is as well. We know some of the girls and it’s a rivalry.”
UNT will have to face TCU without Kerestine, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of last season’s Sun Belt tournament and has 17 career shutouts.
“It will be a tight game,” Hedlund said. “Hopefully we learned some things over the weekend and can come away with two wins. It’s not an easy schedule, but we hope this gets us ready for Conference USA.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.