UNT soccer

UNT soccer players react after seeing their team will face Arkansas on the road Friday. The announcement came during Monday’s NCAA tournament selection show, which the team viewed at the North Texas Soccer and Track & Field Stadium.

North Texas posted one of the bigger wins in recent program history the last time one of its teams visited Arkansas with a member of the Hedlund family playing a key role.

Cole Hedlund kicked three field goals and five extra points last season when the UNT football team rolled past Arkansas in Fayetteville.

John Hedlund, Cole’s father and UNT’s soccer coach, will have a chance to post a memorable win of his own against the Razorbacks at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the NCAA soccer tournament.

Hedlund and his players gathered Monday to watch the NCAA selection show and were a bit surprised by the outcome. UNT will make its seventh NCAA tournament appearance this week.

UNT has played another Texas team in each of its previous six appearances.

“It will be a really good matchup,” Hedlund said. “We are all about our defense and now we are starting to score some goals. It’s going to be a physical game with two teams that mirror each other’s style.

“There will be a lot of athletes and speed on the field and two good goalkeepers.”

The connections between the programs add to the intrigue surrounding the game. Cole Hedlund started his career at Arkansas before transferring to UNT. He was a senior last season and helped lead the Mean Green to a nine-win season and an appearance in the New Mexico Bowl.

One of the highlights for Cole Hedlund was his performance in the Mean Green’s 44-17 win over the Razorbacks.

“Cole went there for some revenge,” John Hedlund said. “We can do the same thing.”

The connections between UNT and Arkansas extend beyond the Hedlund family. UNT defenders Natalie Newell and Ansley Bunger both joined the Mean Green as transfers from Arkansas.

“I’m excited to get to go back there and prove something,” Newell said. “We also have a lot to prove as a team.”

UNT has lost all six of its previous NCAA tournament games and fell in a 1-0 heartbreaker last season at Texas A&M in double overtime.

The Mean Green will get another chance at an NCAA tournament win this week.

“We have the team to do it,” Hedlund said. “It will come down to what it always does, which is finishing opportunities.”

Arkansas knocked off top-ranked North Carolina earlier this season. The Razorbacks rank fifth nationally with an average of 2.76 goals per game. The Mean Green have given up just 14 goals all season and rank 24th nationally with an average of .661 goals allowed per game.

UNT enters the NCAA tournament on a roll offensively after scoring 10 goals in three C-USA tournament games. The Mean Green beat Florida Atlantic 5-2 in the final.

“We can pull one out in the NCAA tournament,” Newell said. “We have the defense, and our offense is starting to come on. If we piece it together, we can come out of there with a win.”

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

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