49ers celebrate earlier in the season. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Last season, Charlotte ended their fight for a championship title with another PK shootout and were able to turn that into a deserved win. Unfortunately in this season’s championship game, after 110 minutes of battling for a scoreless game, the Niners would enter a PK shootout yet again, this time against North Texas. This year, however, Charlotte was not able to come out victorious.

Charlotte (11-8-2) earned the first attempt, with Kyla Clark taking the first shot and sending it a little wide. North Texas’ Tori Phillips then scored the first goal of the afternoon to put them up 1-0. Meredith Hamby took the next shot for Charlotte and had it saved, fortunately her teammate Abby Stapleton then saved the next North Texas (14-3-4) attempt by Brittney Lawson.

Abby Taylor then got Charlotte back in it with a ball right through the reach of Brooke Lamp. Elle Marie DeFrain responded with another goal for North Texas. Riley Orr took what would be the last PK for the Niners as Taylor Torres then put one into the net to win the championship title for the Mean Green.

Charlotte came into the championship game as the No. 8 seed, ready to meet with the No. 2 seed and they most certainly battled, both highly intent on the win. The draw is the first in meetings between the two teams.

The Niners would compete in the last 66 minutes of play without their Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year. Martha Thomas left the game with less than two minutes to go in the first period of the game and unfortunately would not return to the game.

The Niners who have yet to beat the Mean Green in their seven meetings, had several good scoring opportunities to put themselves in place for a win, but would be stopped by goal keep Brooke Bradley.

All-Conference USA Freshman Team member Stapleton, though, showed the same commitment to defending her team’s net, saving 7 North Texas attempts and finished her first conference tournament without having given up a goal in 290 minutes.

In the second half, Taylor and Julia Grainda had decent back-to-back shots that were sadly kept out by the Mean Green’s defense. Jamie Frankhauser took a pretty shot in the 80th minute of play only to be thwarted by a stop by Bradley. She would take a second shot from the far post after Megan Greene sent her a pass in the 97th minute. The shot would go just over Bradley’s head to then come back into her hands for another save.

As the final minute of over time approached, Mary Manser would send the ball toward the net hitting the crossbar and heading straight to the ground unfortunately, not over the goal line which the referees had initially decided. The game remained scoreless after an incredible fight from Charlotte.

“We’re immensely proud. You know, to play three games in five days and not give up a goal, I mean that’s the sign of a championship team. Today, we just came up a bit short. I thought we were the better team, we had the more dangerous chances. We couldn’t ask anymore,” said Coach John Cullen. “I think we’ve done the program and the athletic department at Charlotte proud by just back-to-back finals. This one today, just wasn’t our day.”

A highly offensive and competitive season for these Niners who worked incredibly hard to have the season that they did, will now be losing four seniors. A player who could be considered the program’s greatest, Martha Thomas, along with teammates Kyla Clark, Virginia Lingo, and Shealyn Dwyer have sadly reached the end of their collegiate career.

Charlotte will return in the spring, and in the meantime will be preparing for the program’s 25th season in 2018.