There comes a time when all good things must come to an end.
Unfortunately for the Charlotte 49ers men’s soccer team, it came during the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite an eight-game winning streak outscoring opponents 20-2 in those eight matches, the 13th-seeded Charlotte team suffered a 1-0 season-ending loss to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in front of 1,001 fans inside Transamerica Field.
The cold weather set the scene as the 49ers fell on their home turf, despite it being a neutral site.
An early penalty gave the 49ers an opportunity to be the first on the board when a free kick opportunity arose. Giuseppe Gentile took the kick, but Coastal keeper Devin Cook was able to get his hands on it for the save inside the box.
It did not take long for Coastal to respond back when they found the back of the net in the fourth minute. Charlotte keeper Klay Davis tipped the ball out of his hands and Ricky Garbanzo took a shot from the far right of the box to find the back left of the net lifting the Chants 1-0 over the 49ers.
Gentile sent a header just north of the crossbar on an Anthony Perez assist soon after the Coastal goal.
The Chants held possession of the ball for most of the first period. After Coastal’s Garbanzo and Kai Morton received yellow cards, both players were substituted out in hopes of saving them for the second period.
Will Mayhew took his first shot of the night when he found a chance to equalize the game, but his shot went wide right of the post.
With less than a minute remaining in the opening period, Tyler Gibson had a chance to score on a free kick just outside of the box, but Cook came up with the save.
The opening period of the match proved to be physical for both teams as yellow cards were issued to Charlotte’s David Mayer and Gibson, in addition to the two previously handed out to Coastal’s Garbanzo and Morton.
During the opening period, the 49ers struggled to create scoring opportunities as the Coastal defense created solid pressure on the Charlotte offense.
“We always believe a chance is going to drop, and we had plenty of chances. We just didn’t get one to drop,” said Gibson.
The first chance for Charlotte to score in the second half came when Aidan Kirkbride took a powerful shot that went just wide of the right post.
The Coastal defense dominated in the second half creating pressure on the 49ers, despite the 49ers maintaining majority of the possession and fighting with resiliency.
A free kick opportunity in the final minute of the game proved to be crucial for the 49ers. Mayer’s free kick was deflected and the ball was kicked away towards the other end of the field giving the Chants a 1-0 win over Charlotte.
“We lost to Charlotte at home early on in the season 2-1, and I think we learned a lot from not only that game, but a lot of games we’ve played this year,” said Coastal Carolina’s Head coach Shawn Docking.
“We knew coming in here what to expect. We knew that we had to approach it with a very food mentality and focus to the game and towards them. I thought we played very, very well in the first half. Not so great in the second half. At this stage of the season, you want to advance. It could have gone either way.”
For Charlotte Head Coach Kevin Langan, the loss was nothing short of frustrating.
“We’re pretty disappointed. We’re a much better team than we showed tonight,” said Langan.
The 49ers graduate seniors Klay Davis, Thomas Allen, Aidan Kirkbride, Tyler Gibson, Will Mayhew and Anthony Perez.
Despite seven seniors closing the door on college soccer careers, Langan knows their hard work has paved the way for future 49ers soccer players.
“I think the best way to describe it would be when Tyler [Gibson] joined, like I did, in 2009, this program hadn’t been in the NCAA Tournament in, I believe, 12 years. Now Tyler leaves, he’ll be graduating this Christmas and this program has been in the tournament four out of five years,” said Langan.
“This program has never had as much success. They’ve defined what it is to be a Charlotte soccer player. Every class that we bring in and every player that we recruit, we’ll look at them and say, ‘Can he do what Aidan does’ or ‘Can he do what Tyler did for us all those years?’ They’ve completely set the benchmark. We’re going to miss them like crazy.”
Though the temperatures were below freezing at the final sound of the horn, many of the devoted Queen City Army members were still chanting in support of their beloved Charlotte team.
“The fan support has been unbelievable all year,” said Kirkbride.
“It really drives you forward when you hear them singing, chanting. It’s been a pleasure playing for them. It’s been the best four years of my life.”
The 49ers finish the season with a 12-6-3 record.