The Charlotte 49ers have had a great men's soccer season. They are 13-4-2 and have climbed to their highest national ranking of the season.
They are hoping to sustain a postseason run for the first time in a few seasons, after fizzling out the previous two, and they believe they have the team to do it.
Xavier defeated Charlotte in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, but the 49ers are hoping to regroup and finish out the year they started.
Entering the Xavier game, they had climbed to the No. 8 ranking in the nation. As expected, with team success comes individual recognition, and when the Atlantic 10 conference recently announced its individual awards, the 49ers were heavily represented.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
True freshman striker Giuseppe Gentile (Ardrey Kell) is the 49ers leading scorer. Gentile was named the A-10 freshman of the year, marking the second consecutive year a 49er has won the award.
Gentile came on as conference play began and scored six of his team-high seven goals in A-10 play. He recorded a hat trick against St. Bonaventure and has scored game-winning goals against Campbell and Massachusetts. He scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Duquesne.
Gentile was also named to the second team all A-10. Earlier in the year, after his four-goal week against Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, Gentile was named conference player of the week and College Soccer News national player of the week.
Three 49ers - senior forward Evan James, senior defender Charles Rodriquez and redshirt sophomore Tyler Gibson - were named to the all-conference first team.
Gibson was A-10 freshman of the year last year. Besides being named to the all-conference team, Gibson joined sophomore midfielder Aidan Kirkbride on the academic all-conference first team.
Despite the 49ers great season, it is the second straight year Xavier has taken them out in the first round of the A-10 tournament. Last year they failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament after falling to the Musketeers in double overtime on penalty kicks.
This year they fell 2-1 in overtime.
Next Friday, the 49ers will play their first NCAA tournament game since 2009, when they tied UNC-Wilmington in the opening round.
This year, behind Gentile, Jones and the rest of the offense, Charlotte has scored 33 goals in 19 games. Goalkeeper Klay Davis has allowed just 17 goals.
The 49ers hope they can continue that trend. This has been their best season in a while. They have lots of young talent, and 2011 could be the start of something special.
Friday will be the first step in validating their great regular season and seeing how far they can advance in the postseason.