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Soccer: UNT grabs league crown

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From staff and news reports

MOBILE, Ala. — North Texas is headed back to the NCAA tournament.

The Mean Green came into the 2012 season hoping to make a mark in its final year in the Sun Belt Conference and kept a dream campaign alive by knocking off Florida International 1-0 in the conference tournament title game on the campus of South Alabama on Sunday afternoon.

UNT (16-4-2) finished in a three-way tie for the regular-season league title with FIU and Middle Tennessee with an 8-1-1 mark and followed it up with its third tournament title.

Amber Haggerty scored the game’s only goal on assists from Kelsey Hodges and Jackie Moreau in the 63rd minute. Haggerty’s goal was her second of the tournament and eighth on the year.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine did not allow a goal in the tournament and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.

Kerestine, a preseason All-Sun Belt team selection, was under heavy fire from in the final 20 minutes, but turned back FIU each time. Kerestine posted three saves on the day and nine for the week. She was one of five UNT players named to the all-tournament team.

The others were Haggerty, defender Kelsey Hodges, midfielder Karla Pineda and forward Michelle Young.

“First of all I want to congratulate FIU on a great year,” UNT head coach John Hedlund said. “Second, I’m so proud of my team. To win both titles and book a trip to the NCAAs has made this simply a magical year.”

UNT, the No. 1 seed in the event, won all three of its conference tournament games by 1-0 scores.

The Mean Green received the Sun Belt’s automatic NCAA bid with the win over FIU in the final.

The Division I Women’s Soccer Committee will announce the field of 64 teams during the selection show at 3:30 p.m. today.

UNT’s win over FIU in the tournament championship game was its final game as a member of the Sun Belt, a league it has been a member of for 13 years.

UNT won three Sun Belt tournament championships in that span.

UNT beat Florida Atlantic, WKU and FIU in order to win the tournament, teams that UNT went a combined 1-1-1 against during the regular season.