CHARLOTTE - The North Texas soccer team lost to Rice, 2-0, in the Conference USA championship finals after giving up an early goal and losing two key starters in the first half on Sunday afternoon.
The Mean Green had its six-game winning streak come to a halt at the hands of Rice, who finished second in the regular season behind North Texas. The Mean Green won the regular-season title but came up short for the second row in a year in the C-USA finals.
"Losing our star keeper Jackie on a collision early in the first half that required ten stitches under her eye and then Marchelle to a foot injury right after was extremely tough to over come," said North Texas head coach John Hedlund. "Nevertheless I'm proud of the girls, they never gave up, we just couldn't get the tying goal that perhaps would have changed the momentum."
Gabriela Iribarne scored both goals for the Owls, including the early one in the 21st minute. The midfielder found open space out wide and slotted the ball just to the right of North Texas goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine. North Texas found itself in the unusual position of being behind early. The Mean Green had been the team to score first for the last six games.
Not only were the Mean Green playing from behind, they also were without two starters. Kerestine left the game in the 30th minute after a collision and did not return. Anna Flobeck replaced her, making her first appearance in goal for North Texas. Flobeck had subbed in as a forward in the 27th minute and then had to leave the field to put on the goalie jersey for the Mean Green three minutes later. Marchelle Davis also left the field in the 20th minute with an injury and did not return.
The Rice offense continued to challenge the Mean Green in the second half, outshooting NT, 17-9. The Owls converted a second time in the 65th minute with Iribarne's shot deflecting into the goal off a Mean Green defender.
Karla Pineda led the Mean Green offense with five shots, including several dangerous set pieces.
"One game doesn't define us," said Hedlund. "We are the regular season champions, won 16 games playing a very tough schedule throughout the year and had the highest RPI of all the teams in CUSA. The girls should be very proud of what they accomplished this fall."