The third seed Charlotte 49ers defeated the second seed Old Dominion Monarchs 4-2 in the semifinal of the Conference USA Tournament. The game was played at Transamerica Field with a good 417 in attendance. The two teams met earlier this season on Sept. 7 when the Monarchs defeated the 49ers 2-1 at ODU.
The 49ers entered this game with a record of 13-3-1, and on a seven-game winning streak since their loss at Radford on Oct. 10. The 49ers were off to a fantastic start in the early goings of the first half with a 8-1 shot on goal advantage.
The 49ers would keep the momentum with a near miss hitting the post by Daniel Bruce at the 34th minute. However, the wait wouldn’t be much longer as Charlotte scored the first goal of the game seven minutes later by freshman forward Preston Popp with the assist by Joe Brito on the left wing. Though the dominance throughout the half would end abruptly when Old Dominion scored two goals in the final four minutes, two minutes apart to end the half.
For the first time all season the 49ers were losing at halftime with 10 shots on goal to Old Dominion’s seven.
Charlotte answered early in the second half with a fantastic header by senior midfielder Callum Montgomery at the 55-minute mark. The coveted senior was one of two 49er players on First Team All-Conference USA including Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.
“It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster tonight you know, we scored the first goal I thought we were on top for the majority of the first half. We knew this was a tough team that always pushes back after they conceive,” said Montgomery. “I haven’t scored as many goals as I liked this year. The pass kind of came in and came back out and I put a beautiful ball on it. Jumped up and back across where it came from and fortunately went in.”
The 49ers closed out the game giving the Monarchs a taste of their own medicine with two late-half goals. Brito scored with a shot in the box at the 79th minute. Then, at the 84th minute, forward Daniel Bruce put the game out of reach to give Charlotte a 4-2 lead. The senior from Northwich England was the points leader for Charlotte this season with 14 points and had 5 goals and 4 assists.
Charlotte will face the number one seed in the conference tournament, and No. 3 in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. in Charlotte.
“It’s the championship game and at the end of the game somebody is getting their trophy,” said coach Kevin Langan. “Hopefully it will be a great crowd, asking Niner Nation to come out 1 o’clock tomorrow. Let’s get everyone out here and let’s get everyone in green and let’s push us over this final and finish.”
Photo by Chris Crews