BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky — When the North Texas soccer team walks on to the field on Friday, it will be the 495th time they've played a match, but it will be the first time as a NCAA nationally ranked team.
A program that has produced 79 all-conference winners in 23 full seasons, claimed 13 conference championships and won over 71 percent of all its matches finds its self with its foot on the gas pedal looking to take the program to new heights.
"We have a stronger fight, more energy and more of a drive than we've ever had before," Brooke Lampe
On Friday, the No. 24 Mean Green (9-1-1, 4-0), currently riding a seven-match winning streak and a five-match shut out streak face Western Kentucky (4-7-2, 2-4) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. On Sunday, they remain on the road and take on Marshall (5-6-2, 3-3).
"We have to try and bottle up the energy we have and use it to our advantage every match," Natalie Newell
said. "We've worked hard. And we can keep going."
North Texas has climbed the national ranking ladder over the eight-week season by playing some of the best defense in the country and overcoming adversity.
Headed into this weekend's pair of road matches, UNT ranks in the top-6 in the nation in three key defensive categories: goals-against average (No. 3), Save percentage (No. 4) and shutout percentage (No. 6).
North Texas hasn't given up a goal in the last 518 minutes and nine seconds of game action, which dates back to the first half of the Mean Green's Sept. 2 match versus Pittsburgh that they won 4-1. It's the only goal they've given up during their current seven-match winning streak. In fact, they haven't even trailed in match in the last 630 minutes of action.
But that doesn't mean they haven't faced adversity.
North Texas kept Conference USA rival Rice scoreless last Friday despite playing short-handed for the final 26 minutes. Not only did they keep them from scoring, they created offense, had more scoring opportunities and scored a goal during that 26-minute period.
They've had to wait two weeks in between matches due to weather cancelations. They've traveled to the No. 12 team in the country and held their own and have convincingly won a match without their leading goal scoring being active.
Friday, North Texas can tie the school-record for most consecutive shut outs and by the end of the weekend can tie the school-record for most consecutive wins. And with its current active shut out streak going, the Mean Green are on the road playing with a little extra juice.
"You obviously never want to give up a goal," Newell said. "But knowing we have this shut out streak going I think gives us a little more fire. We want to keep that going. While the ranking is nice, the competitors in us, especially with the defense, are more worried about shutting out the next opponent. You can't lose if you don't give up a goal."