College Sports

Charlotte 49ers surprise UTEP, advance to final of C-USA women’s soccer tournament

By Tim Donelli

The Charlotte 49ers took another step toward reaching the NCAA 64-team women’s soccer tournament with a 1-0 home victory against Texas-El Paso on Friday night at Transamerica Field in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

The No. 6 seeded 49ers will take on the Florida Atlantic Owls at 11 a.m. Sunday with a trip to the NCAA tournament as the prize. The No. 4 seeded Owls punched their ticket into the tournament final with a 3-2 victory against No. 1 seed North Texas.

Charlotte’s Rebecca Beatty scored her third goal of the season off assists from Martha Thomas and Riley Orr, and 49ers goalkeeper Anna Shelden earned a shutout (her fifth of the season), making four saves.

“Amazing, I don’t have any words to describe it,” Beatty said of her winning goal. “Right when it left my foot I knew it was going in, it was a clean hit.”

The 49ers had the better of the play in the first half with 11 shots and six corner kicks. With 9 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half, the pressure finally paid off. Thomas, the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, took a throw-in from freshman star Orr. Thomas found Beatty at the top of the box and her 25-yard blast found the back of the net just below the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.

UTEP turned up the pressure in the second half in an attempt to tie the game, outshooting Charlotte 9-4. One of the best chances for the Miners actually came from a 49ers player. In an attempt to clear a ball deep in the box, a 49er miskicked the ball and it nearly went into her net for an own goal.

Charlotte coach John Cullen talked about what his team did best.

“The quality in terms of playing together as team,” he said. “Our resilience, our spirt and bodies on the line. Sometimes it’s just doing the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet, and we did that well tonight. It wasn’t the prettiest of semifinals but when you get to this stage, they’re going to be tight games.”

Quote: “He was very, very proud of us and said we did a very, very good job of keeping the game on the other side and staying together as a team. Just move on from this game and get ready for Sunday and the championship.” – Charlotte goalkeeper Sheldon of what coach Cullen told the team after Friday’s win.

Worth Mentioning: Sunday’s tournament final will be telecast live on ESPN3. … Should the 49ers prevail Sunday, the opening round of the NCAA tournament will be Nov. 11-13. … The 49ers’ win against UTEP also allowed Charlotte to avenge a 4-3 regular-season loss to the Miners at home on Sept. 30. … Thomas, a junior, needs just five goals to tie Whitney Weinraub (2007-10) as Charlotte’s all-time leading goal scorer (39). … Charlotte has hosted the C-USA women’s soccer tournament two times in the past three years.

Records: Charlotte 10-8-2; UTEP 13-7-2.

What’s Next: UTEP’s season is over. Charlotte will play Sunday’s C-USA tournament final against Florida Atlantic.