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Soccer: UNT secures No. 2 seed with 2-1 win over UTEP

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The season’s quickest goal — followed by the wildest goal of the year — earned North Texas a 2-1 win Thursday over UTEP and a coveted No. 2 seed in next week’s Conference USA tournament.

North Texas (12-6-1, 6-3-1 C-USA) was set to find out its opponent for Wednesday’s showdown in Houston after Thursday’s late games. UNT will be the No. 2 seed from the West Division and will face the No. 3 squad from the East.

“A lot was riding on this game — we simply had to win it,” North Texas coach John Hedlund said Thursday. “To finish the regular season with the second-best record in a 16-team league is quite an accomplishment. Now we need to take this momentum into the conference tournament and focus on winning a championship.”

Playing in the final home game of her UNT career, Kelsey Hodges opened the afternoon with the fastest goal of the year — a redirect from the 6-yard box that found the upper left corner of the net just 2:18 into the contest.

For the remainder of the half, UTEP (12-5-3, 5-3-2) peppered the North Texas goal with 11 shots, thanks to a strong wind at the Miners’ backs, but Haley Riley and the UNT defense stayed strong.

The Mean Green turned the tables on the Miners in the second half and used the blustery conditions to its advantage. In the 57th minute, UNT sent a ball into the corner for Rachel Holden, who won a foot race to the UTEP end line. The freshman lofted a cross that caught the wind and flew into the far side of the goal.

The zero-angle goal was Holden’s 12th of the year, which ranks second in C-USA.

The Miners scored a goal in the 83rd minute, but North Texas was able to hold off the UTEP rally.