The Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer team (3-2, 0-0 C-USA) defeated the Mercer Bears 2-1 Friday night at a very wet Transamerica Field, led by goals from Preseason Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, Martha Thomas, and Swedish freshman Sara Sandberg, her first goal as a 49er.
“Mercer and ourselves had a really close game last year at their place,” said head coach John Cullen. “That keeps us undefeated at home and keeps this young team believing in what we’re doing in training and working hard.”
It didn’t take much time for the 49ers to show off their young but talented team, as freshman Julia Grainda found Thomas streaking just outside the Mercer box. Thomas settled the ball and positioned herself for a perfect shot over Cristina Mursuli’s diving attempt, hitting the back of the net to give Charlotte a 1-0 lead.
With the 49ers holding off the Bears (1-4) for the rest of the first half under great defense from freshman Riley Orr and tri-captain Kaitlyn Walker, it looked like Charlotte might run away with the game in the second half.
With objection to that statement, forward Emma Tokuyama for Mercer laced a ball over Anna Sheldon’s outstretched arms, 14 minutes into the second period at the 59:33 mark, tying the game up with 30 minutes to play.
Freshman standout Megan Greene saw many opportunities to score in the second half, heading three-straight balls in just minutes, but not having enough mustard to sneak by the Mercer goalie Mursuli.
With a late substitution to bring in Sandberg and another freshman, Sophie Sipprell, the 49ers scored at the 71:18 mark using the two new subs. Sipprell found Sandberg by splitting two Mercer defenders, leaving the Swedish freshman with a one-on-one with the goalie, skipping it by Mursuli to give Charlotte a one-goal advantage.
That goal by Sandberg proved to be the winner for the 49ers, while also being the fourth different freshman to score for Charlotte this season.
The 49ers shot 13 times, compared to only seven for Mercer. Sheldon recorded three saves on the night.
Charlotte will travel to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks Monday night at 6:00 p.m.