Lucas Ewing

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Charlotte sends Lambert out in style

The Charlotte 49ers would send Head Coach Brad Lambert out with a win in his final game as the team beat Lane Kiffen’s Florida Atlantic University on the road 27-24 on Saturday, Nov. 24.

Coach Lambert had been with the team throughout its existence, joining after its inception in 2011. The head coach would go 22-47 in his six-year coaching tenure with the team, with no bowl game appearances. It was an uphill battle for the Niners, as the team that had not won a road game in two years found themselves 17-point underdogs in FAU Stadium.

Although the Niners had no possibility of a bowl game, Kiffen’s Owls had an opportunity if they won. The away team would look to play spoiler in Lambert’s final game with the team, in a close game that would come down to kickers.

The game would start rough for the Niners as FAU scored on the first scrimmage play of the game. Quarterback Chris Robison would shovel-pass to running back Kerrith Whyte, who would score on the 75-yard reverse. Down 7-0, Charlotte would drive down the field on a 10 play, 76-yard drive that would take 4:55 off of the clock and result in a touchdown, when quarterback Hasaan Klugh would throw a 12-yard score to receiver Mark Quattlebaum to end the drive.

FAU punted on the ensuing possession, and Charlotte would score again on a 30-yard field goal by true freshman kicker Jonathan Cruz to make it 10-7. On the other side, a 13 play 65-yard drive would go to waste to start the second quarter, as opposing kicker Vladmir Rivas would miss from 28 yards out. Both teams would fail to score in the next four possessions until the Owls would finally score with 3:29 remaining in the half, putting them up 14-10. Klugh would then throw an interception on his own 29-yard line, allowing FAU to score on a four-yard rush by Robison with .46 to go, putting them down 21-10 to go into the half.

The third quarter would shift the momentum, as the Niners began to dominate the game and the Owls began to fall apart. After going 2/7 in the third-quarter, Kiffen would opt to switch quarterbacks, bringing in De’Andre Johnson in the place of Robison. Meanwhile, the Niners would score twice – once on a Benny LeMay 54-yard scamper and again on a 13-yard touchdown rush by Klugh. Less than a minute into the third quarter, Charlotte would lead 24-21.

Due to the inconsistencies in FAU’s kicker, who was 9/16 on the year and had missed a 30-yard attempt already, Kiffen opted to go for it on 4th & 4 in Charlotte’s territory, with 10:40 remaining in the game. The Niners would hold steady and force the incompletion on the throw. By this point, the Niners’ defense had become inspired, led by defensive end Alex Highsmith. Highsmith would record two tackles for a loss on the drive, and would lead the team with 10 total tackles on the day, with five of them counting as a tackle for a loss in the game; nearly half of his total on the season before the game.

A quick three-and-out for the Niners’ offense would give the ball back to the home team with 8:34 remaining, and this time Rivas would convert the 33-yarder after a 12 play drive, tying the game 24-24. With 3:12 remaining, Charlotte would get the ball back in a last-ditch effort to win the game for Coach Lambert.

After gaining one yard on two plays, the Niners would face a 3rd & 9. But Klugh would convert on a 10-yard pass to Victor Tucker to keep the drive alive. Eight plays and 22 yards later, Cruz would line up to kick the game-winning field goal, which he would convert from 56-yards out, a school record and personal best from the true freshman.

It was a win that signaled the team is headed in the right direction as it ships off its only head coach in its short history. The satisfying victory proved that Charlotte has a bright future ahead of it in football, and is ready to hire a new coach and take the next step.

Niners move to 2-0 with win over Terriers

The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team won in dominating fashion at home against the Wofford Terriers on Sunday, Nov. 11, outscoring the visitors 85-63 to improve to 2-0 on the season.

The team was led by Jazmin Harris, who recorded 19 points, five rebounds and a block. The freshman recorded double figures for the second time in the second game of her career. Also notable was Laia Raventós, who led the team in minutes with 29 while recording 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the process, and Mariah Linney, whose nine points from deep sparked the offense multiple times on the night.

The team would struggle at the beginning of the game, finding themselves down 19-25 at the beginning of the second period. The Terriers shot 10-18 from the field whilst Charlotte struggled to play defense.

But after a few momentum-swinging plays, the team would find their stride in the second quarter and would begin to build a lead.

“We started really strong against Asheville and we were the complete opposite [in the first quarter against Wofford],” said Head Coach Cara Consuegra. “I was really just disappointed with our focus and urgency on defense. Obviously, I got on them pretty hard about that and the response was significant.”

It started when guard Lauren Harley scored on a lone fastbreak versus two defenders to make it 21-25. After a Wofford goal, the Niners would hit two threes in a row by way of Jade Phillips and Linney. Harley would then record a large block before Phillips would hit another big three, making it an 11-0 run in the last two minutes. Wofford would also shoot 2-11 in that span. At the half, the Niners would be up 43-34.

In the second half, the team’s star freshman would begin to shine. Harris went 3-5 for eight points in the first half, but began to heat up in the third quarter as she would score five more times and record a block. After the game, Coach Consuegra mentioned it was an emphasis to get her going this week.

“After the Asheville game, we talked about wanting to get Jazz more touches – we didn’t feel like we got her enough touches in the game. So, we watched some film and talked about it the last few days, and I just felt the team did a good job getting her the ball,” said Consuegra. “We knew Wofford was going to play behind in the post, which they did, and so that gave us the opportunity to get her the touches we want, so once she comes into the game and starts making shots, we’re going to keep giving her the ball.”

Harris was also content with her performance in the game.

“It’s a great feeling to know that I can come in here and work for my team. My role is to come in here, score and get rebounds and that’s what I’m going to do. My teammates were finding me the ball, and when they give me the ball I’m going to score, because that’s my role on this team. And tonight they did a good job,” said Harris.

Another emphasis for Coach Consuegra this season is finding and embracing players’ roles this season. The team has started at its highest level since 2016, the last year they started 2-0, and coach Consuegra believes it has to do with the roles that the team has determined.

“A lot of our players understand their role at a higher level than maybe they normally would [at this point], and I think that’s part of why we’ve seen more success over these first two games. We have players doing what they are supposed to be whether that’s rebounding, scoring, being a playmaker or being a defender. They know specifically what their roles are and they are executing very well,” said Consuegra.

That helped the 49ers not only get back into the game on Sunday, but to take it over and dominate the opponent for the rest of the game. Harris would continue to wreak havoc in the paint, Raventós would record a step-back three-pointer after shaking her opponent off balance, and Rinnah Green would check into the game and immediately beat the defense on a two-versus-one fast break, ensuring everyone for the Niners were having fun by the end of the game.

“I think the bench is a luxury for us. What I like is if we have a player that’s maybe not playing well or doing what she is supposed to do, we can just send someone in. I felt like Mo and Christian [Hithe] were significant for us off the bench, but I thought our starters did really well too. They were the ones that responded when I got on them. They came out and were able to get the stops we needed, and I think that’s the biggest thing we learned, that things aren’t going to be easy,” said Consuegra. “Let’s just be honest, in some ways that Asheville game was easy due to the way we started – this game was not, in terms of the first quarter. We learned that when things aren’t easy we have to make adjustments, and make a choice. That’s what I told them. Playing defense is a choice, and they made that choice to play defense and it completely changes a game.”

The 49ers will be playing Rutgers at home Friday, Nov. 6 at 5:00 p.m.

Niners falter in first matchup against the Mocs

It was tough sledding for the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team on Tuesday as the team struggled to keep contained a clicking Chattanooga offense. The Mocs outscored the Niners 80-69 on the night. The defense was able to show up in force in the second half, allowing the offense to catch up from 15 down to within nine, but ultimately did not play well enough in the first half to take the win.

Center Jailan Haslem led the team in rebounds with seven — six of them in the first half — but Head Coach Ron Sanchez opted not to play him in the majority of the second half in favor of a defensive-minded lineup. Guard Jon Davis led the team on offense, scoring 31 in the team’s opener to go along with his four assists. Freshman guard Cooper Robb was electric on defense, staying in the game the entirety of the second half, recording one steal and two blocks with multiple pressures on the defensive side that would lead to steals by teammates. It was a growing night for the young 49ers team; a team that employed five freshmen throughout the game.

“I feel like the first games are always challenging because you don’t know what to expect,” said Sanchez. “There’s no film to study; you’re just leaning on your own experiences. It’s tough to put the system together, you don’t really know personnel too well.”

Both sides of the ball struggled in the first half as UTC jumped out to a ten point lead after 15 minutes. The Mocs would hit from 52 percent from the three-point line, going 11-21. Center Thomas Smallwood would continuously find open looks from deep, going 4-5 on the night, as well as guard Jerry Johnson who would go 4-7.

“Thomas got too many open looks. He obviously had a good game and we didn’t recover quick enough. Our ball-screen coverages were not adequate, and those are areas we have to improve. We will address it.” said Sanchez.

The Niners were also stood up on offense throughout the night with only two players scoring in double digits and only four scoring more than five points. Although the team was able to find itself defensively in the last half and draw the game within seven, the team was still unable to convert offensively, while UTC boasted four players with double-digit points and six players with six or more points.

Despite the first half, the last 10 minutes of the game ramped up both offensively and defensively for the Niners. The team was able to shut down UTC multiple times on the interior, recording multiple blocked shots, steals and a first shot clock violation — the first real defensive stand of the game.

Davis made three shots in a row, sparking the Niners and bringing them within nine, the closest of the night. Guard Malik Martin would then go on a hot streak as he would make a shot and then tip the ball defensively, allowing Robb to steal it and commence a fast break where Martin would be fouled on the shot attempt. Another forced turnover, then back-to-back blocks by forward Dravon Mangum and Robb, coupled with a forced shot clock violation and a second block by Mangum, would allow the 49ers to show the potential that the young team has on defense.

Although the team lost, allowing 80 points in the process, eight points of which were free throws in the final minute, the team showed hope for the season and perhaps potential for a better year than the last, in which Charlotte went 6-23 and saw two head coaches.

“This is a journey. This is not going to happen right away. There’s no magic dust, you just have learn, grow and dig in. It’s not pretty, it’s not sexy, it’s just simple hard work. You have to take it to a different level, and giving up 80 points is not doing that. You have to do a lot better than that.” said Sanchez. 

The Niners are set to take on Oklahoma State in Halton Arena this coming Saturday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m.

A soccer slump

The Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer team had its fair share of ups and downs in the 2018 season. The team finished just below a .500 record at 8-9 (4-6 C-USA) after losing the last six games consecutively.

The season started out in August, a month in which they were outscored by opponents 3-6, five of which were scored by Georgia, to go along with a 2-2 record. In September, the team would catch fire scoring 15 goals. After scoring 15 times in the month of September, leading to a 6-1 record for the month and an 8-3 record total, the team would only score two more times in the month of October, with a record of 0-6 in the month to finish the year with six consecutive losses.

It was a perplexing season for the Niners, one in which the team would pull out a 6-2 record at home and a 2-7 record away. The team would be 0-4 in games in which the opposing team would shoot 16 or more shots, and the team was 1-3 in games where the opponent scored more than one goal. All together, the team held a 2-4 record in games where only one total point was scored.

Generally it seemed that the team’s problem was scoring points. It may be obvious to say that if the team doesn’t score points, they won’t win, but only once did the defense allow more than three goals and only twice did it allow more than two, allowing three each of those times, meaning the offense was rarely ever out of contention. The team seemed to live and die off of their leading scorer as junior Megan Greene would lead the team with six goals on the season and the team would hold a 6-1 record when the junior would score. Charlotte scored one goal or less in each of the last six games – a stretch in which Greene would only score once.

Coach John Cullen believed that the team could have used a leading scorer like last year’s forward, Martha Thomas, and implied at the end of the 2-1 loss vs. Rice that they will look to have one by the beginning of next year.

“We lost a good player last year on offense in Martha Thomas and we have to find someone to score goals. Everyone has been chipping in this year, but we need someone to chip in more volume of goals. And we are going to work on that come this spring,” said Cullen.

Although Greene played well this season, Cullen implied that the team would play better with a bonafide scorer in the mix. Whether that will come in the form of a new player, a step up from Greene or another player on the roster, it will be found out in the Spring. But as it stands now, the team sort of lacks consistency on offense, and that will need to be fixed before the team can look to compete at a higher level next year.

“It’s a young team. I mean we only graduate Abby Coffey and Amelia Clower and I want to thank them for their service and commitment to the program, but otherwise all these players are back, and the message to them was we never want to be in this position we were in. It should sting today [vs. Rice] and that’s what drives us on starting Monday with individual work and individual time to get better,” said Cullen.

Niners fall to Owls

Sofie Perrens serves the ball. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team (10-8, 1-2 C-USA) lost in a valiant effort against the Florida Atlantic University Owls (11-4, 2-1 C-USA) in a 2-3 loss on Sunday night, Sept. 30 in Dale F. Halton Arena.

The team was able to win the first two sets, but lost momentum as the match progressed. After dropping the third set in close fashion, things began to unravel as they lost the final two sets, eventually losing the game.

“It was an exciting battle between us and FAU. We are honored to play them and always enjoy it,” said Niners’ Head Coach Karen Weatherington. “They are a great team and we certainly do some things to emulate them. We have a lot of similar athletes and I thought it was a great match for them to come and test us early in our conference. It was a tough one to drop, but I was proud of our team.”

The first set got off to a quick start as #11 Nya Steele would record a service ace with the first serve of the game. Both teams would continue trading points until it was the Niners at 12-11. Three attack errors in a row by FAU left the score at 15-11, and two more points would be scored before the visitors would call a timeout at 19-11. Eight points later the Niners would be in position to take the first set at 24-14, but multiple kills by FAU’s Massiel Matos would leave the Niners at a stand-still. Two points later by the visitors and Charlotte would finally take the first set.

The second set would start with the 49ers up 4-1 before FAU brought it back. The set would tie at 7-7, again at 13-13, again at 17-17 and once more at 23-23, with both teams swapping the lead. Reeana Richardson, who would lead the 49ers with 17 kills on the night, would record a ground-shaking spike on the opposing team, making the stadium roar as it neared set point. Two points later, Charlotte would take the second set 25-23.

The home team again took the lead in the beginning of the third set, but it would quickly be distinguished as the team had already begun to lose momentum. After jumping to a 12-10 lead, the team would lose six of the next seven points to put them down 14-15. The team would not regain the lead in the third set, falling 26-28, but would still hold the overall lead at 2-1.

In the fourth set the momentum would shift completely. For the first time of the match, FAU would take the early lead. What started as a 1-2 deficit quickly expanded into a 14-25 loss in the set. At one point midway through, FAU would score seven points in a row, the most at any point in the match.

Before the fifth set, the Niners took the brief intermission to run back in to the hallways of the stadium, presumably for the coaches to give inspiration for the fifth and final set. But, instead of the coaches standing up to inspire the team, it was the players.

“I said it was a team responsibility and our team is above all and they had to lay it on the line,” said Weatherington. “But honestly we didn’t talk much as coaches. Some of our upperclassmen stepped up and said their going to lean on each other and we are going to give back to the other team, and if we do that . . . [we] think that’s going to keep us in this and give us a chance to win it, and we did that. We fought to the end.”

In the fifth set, the Niners would appear to gain their composure once more, drawing inspiration from their brief meeting, as they would go back and forth with the visitors up until it became tied at 9-9. A tough kill by FAU’s Sigourney Kame would pull the wind out of the home team’s sails momentarily, but the ladies would fight back still when the score reached a critical point. At 9-14, match point for FAU, the home team ladies would win four points in a row, each by different players. But it wouldn’t be enough. At 13-14, Matos would score the winning blow, a shot that would sail over the heads of the home team, unable to return the ball into play.

“I think their hot hitters got going. We had a blocking scheme to try and slow them down, but a lot of it is about hitting percentage and blocking, and when you don’t get those key blocks in key moments then that momentum shifts back and forth. I think our passing was a little bit off, but we managed to regroup at the end and showed a great fight. This competition level is what our league has become and it’s always going to be a battle,” said Weatherington.

The tough loss for the team would round out the month of Sept. in which they would go 7-6 in 30 days.

Charlotte looks to turn it around at N.C Central on Oct. 2. at 6 p.m. their last non-conference opponent of the season, before facing eleven straight C-USA teams before the C-USA Championships.

Niners overcome Hilltoppers in front of alumni

Niners stand at the ready during pre-game. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers (7-3) pulled out an impressive 2-1 win against Western Kentucky (2-6-2) on the 25th anniversary of the team on Friday night at Transamerica Field. With over 40 former players in attendance, the team was able to advance to 5-0 at home this season.

Both teams jumped off to a quick start, as a total of three goals were scored in the first nine minutes. The 49ers were able to jump first, as they scored a goal to make it 1-0 just three minutes into the game, when Annie Sorando had a goal on the assist by Megan Greene. Just five minutes later, Greene would register another stat on the sheet as she slipped the ball to junior Sophie Sipprell, who would score.

“We wanted to show the alumni that the program is in good hands and some good young players are taking it forward,” said coach, John Cullen. “We wanted to show them what we could do, so we came off to a boiling start.”

Plans started to fall through, however, as the Hilltopers would score less than a minute later. After a corner kick by the Hilltopers, senior Megan Morris would score the goal from the top of the penalty box over the outstretched hands of 49er goalkeeper Abby Stapleton.

“We just gave away their lone goal too quickly. We were letting them get the ball upfield, they were passing the ball up too easy. We got to halftime, talked about it and managed to play much much better in the second half.”

Coach Cullen would spend the halftime making defensive adjustments to his team – adjustments which would allow zero shots by the Hilltopers in the second half.

The defense may have been clicking, but the offense still struggled at times. By the end of the night, the Niners would take 22 shots, with 10 of them on goal – seven of which would be saved by opposing goalkeeper Bailee Witt.

“Sometimes players try too hard to score, and sometimes you just need to relax a little on that final third, take that extra touch, and look up a bit more. But most of those shots we are usually better at putting away. We work hard in practice at putting those shots in, and hopefully next Sunday we put some of those away. But at the end of the day as long as we score one more than the opposition then that’s enough,” said Cullen.

The dominant performance by the defense capped off a three-game win streak in eight consecutive days against C-USA opponents, where they would outscore their opponents 10-2.

They will look to continue the trend when they host Marshall (5-4-2) on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 1 p.m.

Niners Overcome Terriers

Teddy Chaouche lines up to send the ball upfield. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers dominated in their game on Tuesday night, Sept. 26, winning 2-0 against the Wofford Terriers. The team shot 16 times to go against the Terriers’ four shots, and as the numbers suggest, it was a long night for Wofford’s defenders as the ball stayed in the away team’s territory for the majority of the match.

The game’s first score came with 36 minutes left in the first half when senior Tommy Madden crossed the ball to a sliding Myles Brown, the transfer from Notre Dame, who would hit it in – his first career goal.

“We were incredible. We moved the ball very well,” said 49ers Coach Kevin Langan. “We attacked and scored some great goals, and we looked very dangerous.”

The second goal would come with 15 minutes to go in the first half after a deflection by the Terriers’ goalie on a free kick. Junior Teddy Chaouche would commence the corner kick, and sophomore John Ranshaw would put it in the back of the goal. It would be Chaouche’s second assist of the season and Ranshaw’s second goal of the year.

It wasn’t all positive to Coach Langan, however. Towards the end of the match, he seemed concerned with the intensity he was seeing and the mistakes that allowed Wofford to come close to a goal in the final minute.

“We were playing well until the second half and then we just lost our structure. I think it’s a lesson that all athletes have to learn and remember. The game is only over when the whistle blows. Towards the end, we got very comfortable enjoying the game and passing the ball and we didn’t focus on the first law of soccer, which is your intensity and your structure to your play, and then the good stuff comes. It’s a lesson we will learn very quickly, but we shouldn’t have to learn it – we should already know it.”

In the second half, the Terriers’ offense would find its footing momentarily and would pressure Charlotte’s defense for the first time that night. 49ers goalkeeper Elliot Panicco would record three saves in the last 15 minutes of play after having none in the first half.

“It was good to keep a clean sheet, even if it wasn’t our best performance,” said Langan. The 49ers remain a perfect 3-0 at home and look to keep the streak alive on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. against UAB who is 2-2 in away games thus far.

Still Underdogs

QB Chris Reynolds gets sacked. Photo by Chris Crews

A record-setting 19,151 people showed up in Jerry Richardson Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8 to watch the Charlotte 49ers take on the Appalachian State Mountaineers. The attendance beat the Niners’ week one opening attendance in 2017 by 500 people.

The 49ers held their ground in the first quarter, holding the Mountaineers to a field goal in the opening drive. Charlotte would punt on their ensuing possession, but would also hold App State to a three and out, forcing them to punt as well. It was just a 10-0 deficit after the first quarter and the Niners were still in it.

In the second quarter, the Niners would bring the ball down to the App State seven-yard line, but quarterback Hasaan Klugh would be tackled four yards behind the line of scrimmage for a loss before the starting quarterback, Chris Reynolds, would be sacked on the App State 22-yard line. An intentional grounding penalty would also be enforced on the play, pushing the Niners’ offense back to the 32-yard line. The team would end up settling for a 46-yard field goal two plays later, and would score on two more field goals in the ensuing drives, while App scored two additional touchdowns to go into halftime 24-9.

It was downhill from there and when it was all said and done, Charlotte’s MVP of the night, were one awarded, would likely go to kicker Jonathan Cruz. Cruz was three for three in field goals for the night, including a 54-yard field goal which was the longest in the past two years, second longest in school history. With three field goals and the longest field goal by a freshman at Charlotte ever, Cruz was a shining light for the Niners.

The offense racked up a total of 203 yards and two turnovers, a far cry from last week’s 488 total yards against Fordham, with Reynolds going 12 for 22 for 108-yards and a touchdown.

Reynolds almost ended up with multiple interceptions against Appalachian State, however they were both called back, including one due to a penalty.

On the ground, running backs Benny LeMay and Aaron McAllister would combine for 65 yards on 14 carries, a sizable 4.6 yards per carry. Secondary quarterback Hasaan Klugh would notably rush the ball 10 times for 23 yards and an additional five more players would rush the ball in the game 19 more times, with a combined seven yards total on just .36 yards per carry, bringing the grand total on the ground for the team to 2.2 yards per carry.

The 49ers’ leading receiver of the night was Workpeh Kofa, who made two receptions for 35 yards. The majority of his yardage stemmed from a 28-yard reception. Redshirt freshman Victor Tucker would also make four receptions for 33 yards.

On defense, the Niners would struggle to contain the Mountaineers. Opposing quarterback Zac Thomas would go an astounding 14 for 14 for 295 yards and three touchdowns, as well as an additional rushing touchdown. App State averaged 4 yards per carry on 139 yards against the 49er defense, often running off the edge and at Charlotte defensive ends at ease.

The 49ers would be able to get into the backfield six times to make a tackle for a loss but would ultimately fail to hound the opposing quarterback, only sacking him once. On a positive note, safety Ben DeLuca would lead the defense in tackles with 11, bringing his career total to 187 with the 49ers. During the game, he moved into second place in all-time tackles with the team and his fifth career fumble recovery tied the school record.

Towards the end of the third quarter, the home team began to look spent and the Mountaineers would begin to take it away. After both teams punted their first possession of the second half, Charlotte would punt for a second time with 2:57 to go in the third. This time, punt returner Thomas Hennigan would find a hole up the middle and return it 59 yards for a touchdown.

In the next possession, App would score another touchdown to make it 38-9, this time from 90-yards out on a catch and a run over the middle. On the next home possession, App State defensive back Desmond Franklin would intercept Reynolds and return it 46 yards to the Charlotte one-yard line where Reynolds would cause him to fumble. The ball would roll out of the side of the end zone and be called a touchback, giving the ball back to the Charlotte offense.

The Mountaineers would score once more in their 45-9 routing of the 49ers.

Altogether and despite the result, it was a good effort for a team that is still working, against a talented opponent. After App State took the No. 13 team in the nation, Penn State, into overtime last week, Charlotte was understandably the expected underdog. However, were the team able to keep up their first half momentum, it’s a plausible question to ask if the score should have at least been a little closer.