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Charlotte 49ers open with loss but impress soccer champion Virginia

The No. 17 Charlotte men’s soccer team began its quest for a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance on Saturday night, and the 49ers held their own for much of the contest against the reigning national champions on their own turf in the season opener.

Second-ranked Virginia held off the 49ers, 1-0, on Saturday night at Klockner Stadium.

The Cavaliers are known for their tight, stingy defense, and the unit limited the 49ers to three shots (zero on goal) in the first half, all of which came in the latter stages.

Virginia (1-0) notched the game’s only goal on a free-kick attempt in the 38th minute. Junior midfielder Nicko Corriveau headed home a perfectly placed, left-to-right setup cross from Todd Wharton to the back post.

Charlotte senior goalkeeper Austin Pack made two saves in the first half, including an important stop from point-blank range midway through the half. Virginia registered four shots (three on goal) in the first half.

The Conference USA preseason favorite 49ers (0-1) had four corner kicks in each half, but the Cavaliers defense turned away every decent Charlotte look.

Charlotte coach Kevin Langan doesn’t like to put too much emphasis into one opponent, but he figured his team would have a little added motivation going up against the reigning College Cup winners.

“We were the protagonist, we were trying to score,” Langan said. “For us, for the territory we had, for the possession we had, we’re just disappointed we didn’t create better chances.”

Virginia coach George Gelnovatch, now in his 20th season at his alma mater where he was a part of all seven of its national titles (two as a head coach, five as an assistant), was impressed with Charlotte’s effort and experience.

“They have everyone back, six seniors,” Gelnovatch said of the 49ers. “We knew it, we were prepared for it, and I think we did a great job.”

On the night, Virginia outshot Charlotte 10-7.

“We’ve just got to get better,” Langan said. “Now we know what the standard is if we want to be competing for national championships, which we do and which I feel we’re good enough to do.”

Up next: The 49ers will travel to face Coastal Carolina on Friday at 7 p.m. before their home opener at Transamerica Field on Monday, Sept. 7, against Gardner-Webb.