Two of the Charlotte 49ers’ athletic teams will rack up some frequent-flyer miles this month.
The 49ers’ women’s soccer team will leave Thursday for a 10-day preseason camp in the British Isles, with at least two exhibitions against English and Irish teams.
On Aug. 10, Charlotte’s men’s basketball team will depart for British Columbia, with three exhibitions scheduled against Canadian college teams during an eight-day trip.
“I’m more excited about getting the 10 practices in, to be honest, rather than the games,” second-year Charlotte coach Mark Price said. “It’s still going to be a fun trip for the guys, give them time to bond together. For our new guys in particular, those 10 extra practice days will help the development of our team this year.”
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The 49ers, who overcame a rough start to finish 14-19 (9-9 Conference USA) last season, will play the University of British Columbia on Aug. 11, Trinity Western on Aug. 12 and the University of Victoria on Aug. 15.
While Trinity Western is coming off a 1-19 season, Victoria finished 10-11 and just missed a berth in the Canada West playoffs. British Columbia went 28-8 and made it to the Canada Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Final 8 tournament.
“It’s the first look at us as a team,” said senior guard Braxton Ogbueze, the 49ers’ leading scorer (14.5 points per game) last season and one of three returning starters. “It’ll be an interesting first look.
“I love it. We get a chance to throw the ball up in the air and play, get used to each other’s games and build that chemistry. This is the perfect time to do it, so this is a very pivotal trip.”
That’s also the purpose of the soccer team’s trip to England and Ireland, said 49ers coach John Cullen – to build team chemistry in advance of the 49ers’ season opener Aug. 19 against Western Carolina.
Charlotte returns six starters from last year’s team, including junior midfielder Martha Thomas, who was named Conference USA’s preseason offensive player of the year Tuesday.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity,” said Cullen, whose team was 7-11-1 last season, finishing 11th in the C-USA standings. “The ideal scenario is that we can mesh and hopefully build a strong team, and go on to have a strong season.”