It seems like every year, something big changes with the Charlotte 49ers. Between coaches, players, the athletic director and everything in between, things can switch around pretty quickly. This goes for programs other than Charlotte too. Going into the 2019 season, there is yet again almost an entirely new football staff as well as a new head softball coach, baseball coach and an assistant women’s basketball coach. Aside from the coaching changes, each program looks for a fresh start every season and the first of those teams are football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and cross country.
Women’s soccer kicks off gameplay on Sunday, Aug. 11 at UNC Greensboro at 1 p.m. These women came out of 2017 with a winning record of 11-8-2 after reaching the Conference USA final and falling to North Texas following overtimes and penalty kicks. The next season was one without powerhouse goal-scorer Martha Thomas who graduated in May 2018. The Niners found themselves unable to fill her boots and make up for the lost goals. Junior Megan Greene did manage to lead the team in goals with eight, but even with Julia Grainda just behind with five goals, it wouldn’t be enough to give the team a winning season. The shots simply were not hitting the back of the net for Charlotte in 2018, and they finished with a record of 8-9. This year, with seven incoming freshmen and eight returning seniors, the Niners will look to produce a more powerful offense and find themselves in the postseason once again.
The men’s side of the sport begins their season at Transamerica Field on Friday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. Kevin Langan and his crew were a little better off come to the end of the regular season. Charlotte finished with a 14-5-2 record following a loss to Kentucky in the C-USA Championship final and second-round loss to Virginia Tech in the NCAA tournament. After two consecutive seasons of making the conference championship and not being able to win, the Niners will look to return to the final and bring home a championship this time, and potentially reach the NCAA tournament as well. Having lost players like Daniel Bruce, Callum Montgomery, Dean Rutherford and Tommy Madden, who have all been vital parts of the team, it’s possible the group will have a lot of scoring to make up for. On the other hand, even when losing some of its talents, the program has remained fairly steady. This season will be one in which to maintain and develop the players that already have the experience as well as the 10 freshmen present on the roster. Players like senior Teddy Chaouche and redshirt senior Maclean Holbrook, who’s spent a good deal of time off the field due to injuries, will help to keep the team moving forward in 2019. Standout goalkeeper Elliot Panicco enters his senior season as well, setting up redshirt junior GK Austin Mullis and freshman Ryan Burg to continue to improve and prepare to take on the role as well. The Niners meet Kentucky on Sunday, Sept. 15 at Transamerica Field at 7 p.m. to begin their conference schedule.
The Will Healy era of Charlotte Football hits the field under the lights for their first game on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. inside Jerry Richardson Stadium. The Niners are coming off of an emotional final season with the program’s first head coach, Brad Lambert. Lambert’s last game as Charlotte’s head coach was a win over FAU, barring the Owls from a chance at a bowl game, allowing the 49ers to finish their season with a 5-7 record after finishing 1-11 in the season prior. Attitude isn’t everything when it comes to finishing with a winning season according to the numbers; there’s obviously the scores to consider. Nonetheless, it looks as if the attitude of everyone surrounding Charlotte’s football program could be enough to propel them into their first winning season since the first game in 2013. It’s a domino sort of effect in which they know they are going to win games and put butts in seats, so it’s exactly what it seems like they will do. Time will tell, as will the scoreboard, at least in reference to games won. As far as the butts in the seats go, that may not be quite as dependent on the scores in 2019. The team is working hard day in and day out and intend to be outstanding. Support of Charlotte 49ers Football has grown immensely since the hiring of Healy was announced for a number of reasons and it’s imperative to the program that this support continues and grows. With seniors like Benny LeMay, Alex Highsmith, Ben DeLuca, Jeff Gemmell, other standouts like Victor Tucker, Chris Reynolds, Jonathan Cruz and many others on the roster of 100 plus athletes, the team is hopeful to prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with in 2019. No one is blind to the hard work it will take, but improvements are certain and they’re adjusting and fine-tuning in any way they can. Of course, these improvements won’t occur just like that and the program has a lot of ground to cover before they’re where they want to be. Once again, time will tell.
Volleyball begins their season in Halton Arena with the Charlotte Invitational starting on Friday, Aug. 30 at 10 a.m. The team recently gained a new assistant coach in Ana Pego and heads into the 2019 season with head coach Karen Weatherington entering her fifth year. The team made it to the first round of C-USA Championship in 2018, falling to Rice 0-3 and finishing the season 16-15. The Niners have not made it past the first round in the postseason since rejoining Conference USA in 2013 and have made it to the first round on three occasions in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Weatherington and her coaching staff will try to capitalize on the talent present on the roster. The team will feature the young talent of four freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors, and five seniors returning. A recurring characteristic of this team is that they have the ability to win, tend to have a winning streak at one point or another and can’t seem to keep it going. Having lost in the first round of the CUSA tournaments in both 2017 and 2018, the team can certainly get there but has to maintain the same structure and mentality that they have when they are winning games during the regular season.
The cross country team heads into the 2019 season preparing for the C-USA Championships on Nov. 2 The Niners kick off their season with the Charlotte Opener at Franke Liske Park on Friday, August 30 beginning at 10 a.m. The Niners will be losing C-USA Cross Country Male Athlete of the Year Tom Nobles and with the loss of a few seniors, runners like Paul Arredondo, Matt Bonkamp, Alex Cornwell and Zach Marchinko, who was named an NCAA Southeast All-Region Honoree along with Nobles, performed well last year as well and will still be with the team this season. On the women’s side, Bridget Abbatiello, Taylor Brown and sophomore Chandler Norton will return to work to continue to set new personal-bests and help propel the team into the postseason. With a competitive schedule on the horizon, Charlotte will gear up for 2019 season to keep competing and to grow as athletes.