North Texas head coach John Hedlund preached to his team before taking on Louisiana Tech about the importance of being at the right place at the right time, especially on set pieces. Anna Flobeck apparently took notice.
In the 30th minute, the freshman flashed to the front post on a Lynda Hercules corner kick and sent the ball into the back post netting. Flobeck’s goal would hold up to give North Texas its first Conference USA victory, 1-0.
The Mean Green (7-3-1) improved to 1-0-1 in the conference play.
“I really never saw the ball,” said Flobeck on notching her second goal of the year. “I just went into the middle of a pack of players and the ball hit my shoulder and went in. It was exactly like what coach Hedlund was talking about — be at the right place at the right time.”
The North Texas defense was at the forefront of the Mean Green’s renewed emphasis on a possession game. Shelly Holt, Tess Graham and captain Kelsey Hodges diffused pressure all afternoon by hitting their other captain, Tori Adame, on wide-open switches to the left side of the field.
“We just have to understand that teams like this weekend are going to play very defensive minded against us,” Hedlund said. “We need to be more patient with our possessions and do a better job of burying our chances and we'll be fine.”
The veteran defense, along with three saves from Haley Riley, yielded North Texas’ sixth shutout of the year. Riley was really tested once on a diving save from a Louisiana Tech (5-6-1, 0-2-0) free kick from the 18-yard box, which she handled.
North Texas next goes on its first C-USA road trip to take on the two squads picked higher in the league’s preseason coaches poll — Rice (Friday) and Colorado College (Sunday).
UNT beats Middle Tennessee
North Texas withstood a comeback attempt by the Middle Tennessee late in the third set and went on to claim its second Conference USA victory — 25-19, 19-25, 27-25, 25-22.
“I thought our girls battled really well today. Middle Tennessee is a good team,” head coach Andrew Palileo said. “We came out and fought hard and tried to play consistent, which we achieved.”
The match was tied at a set apiece when the Mean Green (10-8, 2-0 conference) put itself into a quadruple set-point situation late in the third frame. MTSU rallied to tie it up at 25-25, forcing extra points. But UNT regained its footing and dug deep for a couple points to clinch the set.
“We really needed a situation like the one in the third set because there were plenty of opportunities during preseason where we needed to focus in during crunch time and fell a bit short,” senior captain Shelby Tamura said.
“It was good for us to come out of a tight one on top.”
Carrying the momentum into the fourth set and powered by a raucous home crowd, the Mean Green controlled the fourth set and closed out the match.
“I think we always have great momentum being here at home, and we got on a roll,” freshman Amy Henard said. “We got a good read on their system and were able to make them guess what we were doing, and we were always a step ahead in that fourth set.”
Sophomore Carnae Dillard notched her ninth double-double of the season on 13 kills and 10 digs, and C-USA Setter of the Week Amy Henard dealt out 42 assists.
The Mean Green hits the road this week, playing at Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Friday.