South Charlotte

Local talent is pushing 49ers toward title

The UNC Charlotte men's soccer team is ranked No. 14 in the country and has beaten the defending champion in its run to the NCAA Soccer national title, known as the College Cup.

UNC Charlotte has scored 43 goals and allowed just 20 this season, and now the 49ers are making their second trip to the College Cup. The 49ers took out defending champion Akron in the round of 16, and most recently defeated the University of Connecticut, 4-2.

Head coach Jeremy Gunn has his team playing well and puts an emphasis on filling his roster with Charlotte and Union County talent.

Three 49ers - senior forward Evan James, senior defender Charles Rodriquez and redshirt sophomore Tyler Gibson - were named to the all-Atlantic-10 first team.

Freshman forward Giuseppe Gentile (Ardrey Kell) is the Atlantic-10 Freshman of the Year and was named second-team all-conference. He scored the first goal against Connecticut and has been a steady scoring threat all year.

Gentile leads the 49ers with 10 goals. Gentile also has 2 assists and has appeared in all 23 games, starting the last 17.

While Gentile has headlined the group of local talent, there are other players contributing.

Junior forward Donnie Smith (Charlotte Catholic) leads the 49ers with 7 assists and is tied for second on the team with 5 goals and 2 game-winning scores. Smith has started 10 games and has played in all 23 contests this season.

Sophomore defenseman Thomas Allen (Providence) has started 20 of 21 games and has scored 3 assists and 2 goals.

Junior midfielder Owen Darby (South Meck) has appeared in every game with 10 starts and has 2 assists on the year.

Local freshman include defensemen Jake Keating (South Meck), Nick Barnhorst (Ardrey Kell), Jeremy and Cory Dennis (Vance) and goalkeeper Nick Hensley (Mooresville).

The 49ers already have signed Providence star Brandon Kardos and Marvin Ridge standout Kyle Parker.

The 49ers played Creighton on Friday in Hoover, Ala. A win would put them in the national championship game.

Top-seeded North Carolina and UCLA round out the remaining teams.