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UNT soccer team draws Texas in NCAA tourney

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas will take on a familiar foe in the first round of the NCAA women's soccer tournament on Friday.

The Mean Green are headed to Texas for a 5 p.m. first-round match in Austin. UNT fell to the Longhorns 1-0 earlier this season.

UNT (14-3-4) will be making its fifth NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2015. The Mean Green are 0-5 all-time in the NCAA tournament, but believe they are in position to break through against the Longhorns.

The Mean Green were locked in a scoreless tie with Texas into the 82nd minute of a game in Denton back in August before Cyera Hintzen scored the game-winner for the Longhorns.

"For us to be tied with that team we are playing in the tournament is a confidence boost for us," UNT senior  forward Cat Sebazco said. "We have nothing to be scared of."

Texas (13-3-2) is the No. 4 seed in UNT's quarter of the 64-team tournament.

UNT coach John Hedlund and his players believe they are peaking at the right time. The Mean Green were forced to play five games in 10 days to reach the NCAA tournament starting with their final two games of the regular season.

UNT tied 18th-ranked Rice and then won four straight, capped by a win over Charlotte in a penalty kick shootout in the Conference USA tournament final.

Taylor Torres scored the game-winner.

"Our confidence right now is at an all-time high," senior defender Tori Phillips said. "We had to push ourselves physically and mentally to play five games in 10 days. If we can do that, we can put all of our energy into this game and finally push past the first round."

The Mean Green have not lost since falling to Old Dominion back on Oct. 22.

"It's big to have momentum," UNT coach John Hedlund said. "We have taken it to another level now."

Texas has lost its last two matches, including a 2-1 loss to Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.

"We know them and they know us," Hedlund said. "They haven't made many changes since we played."

Phillips and Sebazco were both members of UNT's 2015 NCAA tournament team that fell at Texas Tech, 1-0. That was as close of a call as UNT has had in the NCAA tournament.

UNT's players believe they have what it takes to break through this time around, especially after playing well late in the season.

"The sky is the limit in the tournament," Phillips said. "If we play our best soccer, we can make a run."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.