University City

49ers show that they're ready for the big stage

The UNC Charlotte mens' soccer team came up short last Sunday but proved it is among the elite teams in the country.

The 49ers lost 1-0 to UNC Chapel Hill in the national mens' championship game. The Tar Heels were the No. 1 seed in the tournament and had played in the final game each of the previous three seasons, each time falling a little short.

The 49ers peppered the heavily favored Tar Heels with shots on goal in the final 10 minutes, with two hitting the crossbar.

Despite the 49ers aggressive play, this was the Tar Heels' year.

Charlotte head coach Jeremy Gunn said there was a wide range of emotions when he woke up the day after the title game. The 49ers had plenty of success along the way, and, through recruiting, the team has set itself up as more than capable of returning to the College Cup, college soccer's version of the Final Four.

In previous years, the 49ers had ended otherwise great seasons on the short end of penalty kicks. Last year they lost to Xavier in the conference tournament after finishing the regular season nationally ranked. The loss effectively ended the 49ers post-season chances.

This year, Gunn and his team were ready for any situation - a good thing, because Charlotte faced plenty of tough teams.

The Tar Heels and 49ers played a scrimmage match to kick off the 2011 season. That game was called due to inclement weather.

The College Cup final was UNCC's first national title game in any sport. The 49ers soccer team now not only will return as the front-runner for the conference title but proved it can play well on the national stage.

The run to the national championship is a program-changing event that strengthens the Charlotte soccer tradition and lets everyone know the 49ers will not back down from any challenge.

Gunn has built something special at UNC Charlotte and has infused a lot of local flavor. The 49ers are built for many return trips and know they can knock off defending champions.