When it comes to men’s soccer, there’s little the Charlotte 49ers haven’t achieved on a regional and national level. In recent years they have won conference regular season championships, horded NCAA tournament at-large berths, and even played for a national title in 2011.
But there’s one prize that has eluded the 49ers: the combination of a conference tournament crown and an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
On Nov. 13-17, for the third time in four years, Charlotte will host the Conference USA tournament at Transamerica Field. The 49ers clinched a spot in the seven-team field last weekend.
Quarterfinal games will be played Nov. 13, with semifinal and championship rounds being played on Nov. 15 and Nov. 17, respectively. The No. 1 seed will have a first-round bye.
“What’s special about it is you have knockout soccer on your doorstep and you get a chance to win the conference championship,” said Kevin Langan, Charlotte’s second year coach. “We get to do that in front of the Queen City Army and Niner Nation (fan groups).
“The guys get to sleep in their own bed. They get to train as normal and go to class as normal. They get the chance to try and win it. It’s a little bit of unfinished business with this group of seniors.”
Although it switched conferences this year, it didn’t stop Charlotte administrators from submitting a bid to host the tournament in its first season back in C-USA. Chris Grant, the conference’s director of sports services, said the selection process goes through the conference commissioner, senior administrators and school athletic directors, and that they all agreed Charlotte was a solid choice.
Grant noted Charlotte’s superb facilities as one of the attractions of hosting a conference tournament.
“At the NCAA level, you don’t see too many fields taken care of as well as Transamerica Field,” Grant said. “It is well known that Charlotte loves its soccer.”
Charlotte hosted the Atlantic 10 championships in 2010 and 2012. Both years, the 49ers won the regular-season championship and were seeded first in the tourney, but got knocked out prior to the championship game.
The 49ers carried a four-game winning streak into their regular-season finale at Florida International on Nov. 8. They entered the game with a chance to be seeded anywhere between fourth and seventh in the C-USA tourney.
Langan and his players feel they are peaking at the right time. Plus, the 49ers’ most recent national RPI ranking was 25th, meaning it is in good shape to receive a NCAA tournament at-large big if it doesn’t earn an automatic bid.
“One thing in soccer that our coach always says is you have to have a short memory,” said senior midfielder Will Mayhew, a Concord native and Jay M. Robinson graduate. “Obviously you’re going to go back to the past and the history, but you have to make it a positive thing. There’s nothing that these guys in this program haven’t been through. But we’re playing our best soccer and you just have to look to the next game.”
Slatter gets all-C-USA honors
Senior Maraya Slatter earned all-Conference USA honors at the C-USA cross country championships in Denton, Texas, on Nov. 2.
Slatter, who ran a season at Queens University before transferring to Charlotte, placed 19th overall, six spots in front of teammate Kim Spano.
Charlotte’s women’s team finished fifth out of 13 teams, while the 49ers men placed sixth. The top male runner for the 49ers was junior Joseph Cotto, who finished 24th.
49ers win 1st C-USA volleyball match
The volleyball team won its first Conference USA match on Nov. 3, beating visiting Texas-El Paso 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 30-28, 25-10). Senior middle blocker Amanda Videmsek led the 49ers with 22 kills and 10 digs.
Sophomore libero Michelle Hovey had a team-high 31 digs while sophomore setter Britney Held had a very meaningful number of assists: 49. Charlotte plays at East Carolina today, hosts Southern Mississippi on Senior Night on Nov. 15, and finishes the season on Nov. 17 at Alabama-Birmingham.