College Sports

Surging Charlotte 49ers to host C-USA men’s soccer tournament

Luke Waechter
Luke Waechter Charlotte 49ers

The Charlotte 49ers men’s soccer team entered the season with a No. 17 national ranking but found itself with a 3-4-2 record halfway through the season.

“It wasn’t the kind of start we wanted,” defender Luke Waechter says, “but we were growing stronger. Mentally, we kept strong, we kept playing better together, and we improved.”

The 49ers (10-5-2, 6-1-1), who have won eight of their past 10 matches, carry a No. 2 seed – and strong chance of an NCAA tournament berth – into the Conference USA tournament, which opens Wednesday at Charlotte’s Transamerica Field.

Kentucky (12-3-2, 7-0-1), the league’s top seed, has a first-round bye. Opening-round games Wednesday pit No. 4-seed Old Dominion vs. No. 5 Florida International at 2 p.m.; No. 3 South Carolina vs. No. 6 New Mexico, 4:30 p.m.; and No. 2 Charlotte vs. No. 7 Marshall, 7 p.m.

The semifinals are Friday, with the championship at 2 p.m. Sunday (Fox Sports Carolinas).

The 49ers gave up seven goals in their first nine games. While that is a good defensive record, Charlotte was even better over the second half of the season, permitting only four goals over an eight-game stretch.

“Our defense is not just the back four players,” says Waechter, who coach Kevin Langan says was a key piece in the 49ers’ run to the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. “We defend from the front. It’s all about organization, communication.”

As a redshirt junior, Waechter is the old man in a defense that also starts two sophomores and a freshman.

Waechter, who helped lead Greenbrier (Ga.) High to region championships in his junior and senior seasons, says the young 49ers defense has become a unit and tries to be ready for other teams’ best shots.

“With our success, we know every game is a fight,” he says. “We are ready for that.”

He says the defense prides itself on shutouts, such as the 2-0 blanking of then-nationally ranked South Carolina on Oct. 23.

“A shutout is huge,” he says. “It’s the No. 1 thing for us. Game by game, we want to get better. I think we’re all focused and ready for what’s ahead.”

Wednesday’s quarterfinals

Match 1: No. 4 Old Dominion (8-4-3, 3-3-2) vs. No. 5 FIU (9-6-1, 3-4-0), 2 p.m.

Match 2: No. 3 South Carolina (10-6-1, 6-2-0) vs. No. 6 New Mexico (8-5-4. 2-4-1), 4:30 p.m.

Match 3: No. 2 Charlotte (10-5-2, 6-1-1) vs. No. 7 Marshall (7-8-1, 2-5-1), 7 p.m.

Friday’s semifinals

Match 4: No. 1 Kentucky (12-3-2, 7-0-1) vs. Match 1 winner, 4:30 p.m.

Match 5: Match 2 winner vs. Match 3 winner, 7 p.m.

Sunday’s championship

Match 6: Semifinals winners, 2 p.m., Fox Sports Carolinas

2015 Conference USA soccer awards

Player of the Year

Callum Irving, Kentucky

Offensive MVP

Kyle Parker, Charlotte

Defensive MVP

Callum Irving, Kentucky

Freshman of the Year

Niko Klosterhalfen, Old Dominion

Golden Boot Award

Kyle Parker, Charlotte (seven goals)

Golden Glove Award

Callum Irving, Kentucky (seven shutouts)

Co-Coaches of the Year

Scott Calabrese, FIU

Johan Cedergren, Kentucky

All-Conference USA First Team

GK: Callum Irving, Kentucky

D: Marvin Hezel, FIU

D: Jordan Wilson, Kentucky

D: Michael Nelson, Old Dominion

MF: Brandt Bronico, Charlotte

MF: Napo Matsoso, Kentucky

MF: Chris Wehan, New Mexico

MF: Ivan Militar, Old Dominion

MF: Danny Deakin, South Carolina

F: Kyle Parker, Charlotte

F: Ian Svantesson, UAB

All-Conference USA Second Team

GK: Alex Tiesenhausen, Old Dominion

D: Nick Edginton, Marshall

D: Chris Gurule, New Mexico

D: Koty Millard, South Carolina

MF: Max Rodriguez, Charlotte

MF: Daniel Gonzalez, FIU

MF: Ismael Longo, FIU

F: Luis Betancur, FIU

F: Stefan Stojkovic, Kentucky

F: Rimario Gordon, Marshall

F: Niko Hansen, New Mexico

F: Kevin Walker, South Carolina

F: Freddy Ruiz, UAB

All-Conference USA Third Team

GK: Austin Pack, Charlotte

D: Matej Dekovic, Charlotte

D: Josh Goss, New Mexico

D: David Macsicza, Old Dominion

D: Ive Burnett, South Carolina

MF: Kristoffer Tollefsen, Kentucky

MF: Josh Dye, New Mexico

MF: Cole Stringer, Old Dominion

F: Thomas Gallitz, Florida Atlantic

F: Jesse Miralrio, Old Dominion

F: Jeffrey Torda, South Carolina

Conference USA All-Freshman Team

Tommy Madden, MF, Charlotte

Callum Montgomery, D, Charlotte

Steffen Böhm, D, FIU

Douglas Landvik, MF, Florida Atlantic

Tanner Hummel, D, Kentucky

Xahne Reid, MF, Kentucky

Francesco Casucci, MF, New Mexico

Patrick Khouri, MF, New Mexico

Niko Klosterhalfen, MF, Old Dominion

Jack Willbye, MF, Old Dominion

Peyton Ericson, D, South Carolina

Torgeir Nyboe, D, South Carolina