Jeremy Gunn's voice reverberated from the tent that served as a make-shift locker room at halftime of the Charlotte 49ers' second-round NCAA men's soccer tournament game at Alabama-Birmingham on Nov. 20.
"We will defend like we have never defended before!" shouted Gunn, the 49ers' fifth-year coach. "We will not let this game get away from us after we've worked so hard to get here!"
These were not demands Gunn was making of his team, nor were they admonitions. They were the simple - if loud - statements of a coach who had a pure belief in his team during a game the 49ers eventually would win 3-1.
Gunn's faith helped carry the unseeded 49ers through the tournament and back to the Birmingham, Ala., area two weeks later, when their unlikely run finally ended with a 1-0 loss against No. 1 seed North Carolina in the College Cup championship game.
The 49ers reflected Gunn's recruiting philosophy: The team was stocked with players from Charlotte-area high schools and youth clubs, most of them overlooked by college soccer's traditional powers. But the 49ers weren't without top-level talent: Senior defender Charles Rodriguez was a first-team All-American.
Unheralded and virtually unknown, the 49ers went on their NCAA tournament run. Charlotte got past three seeded teams (UAB, Connecticut and Creighton), as well as 2010 champion Akron on the way to the final against the Tar Heels in Hoover, Ala.
There, in front of a crowd that included six busloads of Charlotte students and a national television audience, the 49ers' season ended, even after a flurry of shots at the Tar Heels' goal late in the game somehow missed their mark.
The run was over - and Gunn soon would leave for Stanford. But what a run it was.