North Texas was hoping at the beginning of the season that it would be playing for a Conference USA title in its last home game of the year.
The Mean Green came up just short of that goal but will have a chance to grab a nice consolation prize — a second seed in next week’s conference tournament — today in a rare weekday afternoon game against UTEP.
UNT (11-6-1, 5-3-1 C-USA) will face the Miners at 1 p.m. today at the Mean Green Soccer Stadium.
UNT has won four of its last five games and enters the day in third place in the league’s West Division behind Colorado College and UTEP (12-4-3, 5-2-2).
The C-USA standings are based on a points system that leaves UTEP leading UNT 17-16. A UNT win would vault the Mean Green past the Miners. A tie would give UNT the No. 3 seed from the West and a bye, while a loss could leave UNT playing in the first round instead of getting a free pass to the quarterfinals.
“This is definitely important to win and get that No. 2 seed,” UNT senior forward Vanessa Ibewuike said. “It would give us a lot of confidence heading into the tournament. Momentum is important because the tournament is ‘win or go home.’ If we have momentum and are playing well, we know we have a strong chance of winning the whole thing.”
Beating UTEP could be a key step toward that goal. The Miners have won three straight and handed Colorado College its first conference loss in their last outing.
“UTEP is playing well,” UNT coach John Hedlund said. “They just beat Colorado College and seem to be on a roll. We have always beaten them here, and they have always beaten us at their place. It will be a battle.”
It’s a battle that could be vital to UNT’s hopes of winning the C-USA tournament in its first season in the league.
“We know that when we are playing our best we can beat anybody,” UNT midfielder Lindsey Hulstein said. “No one really scares us. We know that we have to play our best game, but we are pretty confident.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6879 or via twitter at @brettvito.