Sam Palian


There’s a new Shirreffs in town

It’s first down Charlotte and the Niners are refusing to finish this season without breaking records and winning games.

The Charlotte 49ers returned home on Saturday, Oct. 13 for Homecoming to put up the most points and claim the largest win margin in a Conference USA game in program history, beating WKU 40-14.

“It was a total team effort today, from our fan base, our student body, our band, administration and our student-athletes. I told our team in the locker room, ‘That’s what a team is, you represent a university and it takes a lot of people to be successful.’ It was a great atmosphere today and Homecoming, and I’m just really proud of everybody associated with the game; that’s what a team is supposed to look like,” said head coach Brad Lambert. “Our guys came out and played a real clean game, stayed focused, played a clean second half; I thought we ran the ball well against a team I thought was pretty good coming in, ya know, Western Kentucky, they beat up on us pretty good last year, so I thought our guys had real good energy and I thought they prepared extremely hard all week and that’s what it takes.”

Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds left the game injured early in the second half with the score sitting at 9-7 and the 49ers ahead, giving Evan Shirreffs his first opportunity to stake his claim as a Niner in Jerry Richardson Stadium.

“I thought Evan, for his first action, played like he’s been practicing. He’s been into it, he’s preparing hard, so he was ready to go when he went in the game,” said Lambert.

It’s no surprise that Shirreffs’ first pass as a 49er would connect with running back Benny LeMay for 31 yards. Shortly after the connection, RB Aaron McAllister would receive the ball from the QB for 35 yards, Calvin Camp would rush for four and Shirreffs would run the ball one yard for his first career touchdown with Charlotte. This was the first sign of what would be an explosive third quarter for Niner Nation.

“It’s always good just to get out there and get that first completion down and I mean, thankfully, it was a big gain which gave us a little momentum and to this guy [LeMay] on the O line getting out there, knocking some guys down, so it gave us a little momentum,” said Shirreffs.

After a Western Kentucky possession of less than a minute and a half, a pass to wide receiver Workpeh Kofa for 15 yards and 38 rushing yards from LeMay, a nine-yard rushing TD from LeMay and a solid extra point kick from Jonathan Cruz, the Niners would be up 23-7 with 4:20 left on the clock.

Several offensive team members made strides against the Hilltoppers, including Camp rushing for 38 yards, Ishod Finger seeing a lot of action, rushing for 29 yards and McAllister rushing for 20 and gaining a touchdown. LeMay shined as usual, rushing for 121 of 229 rushing yards.

“You try to have competition and depth at each position and I feel like we have that,” said Lambert. “Those guys are all good players, and more importantly, they’re really good people and they want to play well and they want the 49ers to win and that’s a good thing for us.”

WKU would quickly lose their next possession when powerhouse linebacker Juwan Foggie collected his fourth pick of the season on QB Davis Shanley’s first pass of the drive. Foggie has tied for the most interceptions by a Niner in a single season at four and tied the school record for most in a single game at two interceptions and added a team-high eight tackles against the Hilltoppers.

The 49ers used their 48 second possession to add on yet another touchdown thanks to the hands of Shirreffs, the 13 yard rush by WR Rico Arnold and the 14 yard rush into the end zone by McAllister.

The third quarter would end with a score of 30-7 and Charlotte would begin the final quarter with a 51-yard field goal by Cruz, making it his fifth field goal over 40 yards, the most by a freshman and his second over 50 yards.

“That was the challenge at the half; we played really clean in the first half and that was our challenge to them, was to take this next opening drive and see what we can do with it, and I thought the third quarter was extremely energetic and clean,” said Lambert. “We didn’t have penalties, we weren’t making a ton of mistakes and I think the guys were really locked in and when you prepare like that and lock in, you’ve got a chance.

A big pass from Shirreffs to Arnold for 28 yards gave Charlotte their final touchdown. WKU’s final possession led to their second and only other TD of the game, giving them 14 points to Charlotte’s 40.

“That’s just your job, just be ready at any time. I really was staying loose on the sideline, just waiting for my shot you know, and I went out there I just tried to bring a little juice and all of the guys kind of embraced me which was great. I felt like we didn’t really skip a beat at all and it started with the O line and to the backs and the receivers, it was a great second half effort all around,” said Shirreffs.

With over 10 personal and team records either matched or broken, 34 unanswered points and 21 unanswered points in the third quarter, the numbers speak for themselves. The Niners have made major waves so far this season and QB Shirreffs has already made quite a mark.

“Credit to my man, Evan. It’s big, it’s a big win for us. We really worked hard this week, like Coach Lambert said, we focused in on what we had to do,” said LeMay. “He practices with an enthusiasm and energy all week and like he [Shirreffs] said, we didn’t miss a beat.”

Once a Niner, always a Niner

Cullen looks on as the girls warmup. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Athletics

Women’s soccer coach, John Cullen, has begun his 10th season with the Charlotte 49ers. To begin this season, he and his team reached his 100th win as a coach at Charlotte early on.

“It was a nice feeling; I’d forgotten all about it until you brought it back up actually, I’d already moved on to the next one. But I jokingly said, ‘It took more games than I realized to get there.’ It’s always a nice honor, ya know, you try and take one game as they come, and eventually, if you’re here long enough, you start to get those moments, those monumental games,” said Cullen. “I was proud of it, I was happy for it, and want to thank all the players and the staff that I’ve worked with currently and in the past.”

Cullen graduated from Charlotte in 1993 after spending his four years on the men’s team as a Niner himself. In 1991, he was a member of the very first NCAA tournament team in Charlotte history, making it to No. 4 in the national rankings. The team repeated as a tournament team the next year and moved up to No. 2

During his time as a Niner player, he earned a spot on the NSCAA South Region Scholar-Athlete Team as well as on the Sun Belt Academic Honor Roll.

“I had a great experience here as a player. I thought the Charlotte administration, the University, faculty, staff and athletic department treated me with great respect and I just had a wonderful experience here,” said Cullen.

Cullen spent some time with the Olympic Development Program and during that time, he managed a 46-4 record. Included in that record was a 16 game undefeated and unscored on season with the ’90s NC ODP team. In 2010, he coached the NC ODP ’95 team with formers Charlotte Assistant Coach Sarah (Judy) Denton to go on to the regional championships and in the next year, to the national championships.

Amidst the years between graduating and returning to Charlotte as a head coach, Cullen also spent several years with the Catawba Indians from 2001-08. In his run as coach at Catawba, he tallied a 113-33-16 record to leave as the school’s career win leader.

He led the team to four NCAA Division II Regional appearances including twice to the regional finals, and in 2005, he was named the NSCAA Regional Coach of the Year when the team finished the season 16-4-1. In January of 2009, though, Cullen would return to Charlotte to begin his stint as Head Coach at his alma mater.

“I knew when I graduated from here, I wanted to come back here in some capacity, not sure what it was, but I was fortunate enough to get named as a coach in 2009. I had wonderful memories, great relationships, great fondness of the place, and I just wanted to come back and create more of those, not only for myself, but the players I’m coaching,” said Cullen.

Having been awarded many accolades, such as Regional Coach of the Year or Charlotte Youth Girls Coach of the Year in Dec. 2015 for his time with the Charlotte Soccer Academy, Cullen remains humble and reminded of why he reaches those heights.

“It kind of validates some of the work you’re doing. I want to stay true to myself as a coach; I never want to shortcut how I believe a team should prepare and play. So, I’ve always approached every season as a new season, as a new chapter, as a new opportunity to prove myself and for the team to prove themselves. I always look at the work I do as trying to improve as a coach every year,” said Cullen, “but I never look beyond the next game, and I know that’s an old cliché, but they stack up over time. The years go by quickly, but anytime you’re fortunate enough to break a record, it validates to me the work I’m putting in and the preparation I’m putting in.”

Not only does he work hard to push himself and his team to get better but he values sharing that journey with his players a great deal. Awards are great and all, but they might just be more fun when there are people to share it with.

“Most coaches will tell you the biggest part of what we do is for the players, and I’ve had a wonderful connection with players currently and formerly with the alums. You know, a win or a trophy doesn’t mean anything unless you can share it with people that you truly care about, and I care about my players. I’d like to think that’s my number one attribute: I’m there for every player and I hope they’ve enjoyed playing under me,” said Cullen. “But at the end of the day, you don’t want to just experience success on your own, you want to share with a lot of people and that’s why you drive on to be better and be ambitious. It’s the next group of players through the door, you know, so it’s: can I give them a good experience? Can I give them good memories?” said Cullen.

Going With the Flo

With a Category 4 hurricane approaching much of North and South Carolina during the week of Sept. 10th, it was unclear early on whether or not the Niners and the Monarchs would meet as planned. Eventually, the decision was made to move the game from Saturday, Sept. 15th to Thursday, Sept. 13th at 4 p.m.

“Obviously, we’d been monitoring the traffic of the hurricane for quite a while, and initially you saw that a lot of the paths were sending it a little north of us where we thought our game would still be in good shape on Saturday. But then once it started to turn beginning of this week and we realized it was coming closer to us and we were gonna be north of it as opposed to south of it, that’s when we decided to kind of start looking into some other options,” said Tom Whitestone, Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations. “Really with the fluctuating nature of a storm path, whether it would hit closest on Friday or Saturday really kind of forced us to go to a Thursday start time.”

From the Monarchs needing to evacuate to Charlotte early to making sure that those who didn’t travel with the team got home safely, a lot of work was done on both ends to make sure the game was played and that everyone was safe and taken care of.

“From our end, we did a lot of communication with them early in the week. We worked with them to help try and find a place for their team to practice once they got down here; they were gonna be using our weight room while they were down here if they needed it to allow them to get some lifts in while they were here, thinking they were gonna be here several days before the game got played, but they ended up not needing to use our weight room because they’ve only been here a short period,” said Whitestone. “But the communications started pretty robustly as soon we realized that they were gonna have to get out of Norfolk and head this way, to start talking about at least the combinations. At that point, we weren’t really talking about changing the game time, but we were talking about how we could accommodate them and make sure that they had as pleasant an experience as they could while they were here.”

Old Dominion was able to practice Tuesday morning and head toward Charlotte that same afternoon, arriving in the evening. Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations, Eric Bohannon, left Norfolk on Wednesday, prepared for whatever Florence brought Conference USA’s way.

“I heard late Tuesday night that the game was possibly going to be moved to Thursday, found out at about 11 a.m. Wednesday when I was stopped at a gas station that this was going to be Thursday at 4 o’clock. Charlotte’s been great, Tom, the communication from both schools, especially coming from Charlotte since they’re the home team, has been phenomenal. They’ve been very helpful, and the fact that this is gonna happen, likely with no rain, is great,” said Bohannon.

Not all of the reasons for making the decision to move the game up may have been obvious. Looking forward to the rest of the season and other teams’ schedules had to be done in order to really decide whether to move the game up. Waiting it out or rescheduling entirely would be the best bet.

“We did not share a common open date with Old Dominion, which meant that the only opportunity we would have to play them would be at the end of the season, if neither one of us were in the championship game. And honestly, when you only have only 12 opportunities in a season and you’re trying to win as many games as you can, we wanted to make sure we were maximizing our competition opportunities for both schools,” said Athletic Director Mike Hill.

Clearly, far more goes into dealing with a situation of this nature than many may realize. From coaches and athletic directors conversing to making sure there are staff members to scan tickets, it certainly takes a village.

“It’s incredibly complicated and I’m not sure everybody fully understands, if you’re not sort of in this world, what it takes to pull off and I do want to give a lot of credit to our Chancellor and our staff and our campus community. We had a football operations staff meeting today where there were probably 50 people in the room to discuss all the different logistics and the things that needed to take place,” said Hill. “Everybody was on board, they understood what we’re trying to accomplish and that is to stage a great football game, but with the safety of our student-athletes, our coaches, staff and our fans being paramount.”

Not being entirely sure how or when Florence would arrive in Charlotte over the weekend, having the option to move the game up proved quite beneficial. The Niners would go on to beat the conference foe 28-25 in a battle that allowed Charlotte to utilize their run-game.

Hurricane Florence. Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

As far as Florence goes, she was labeled a Category 4 as of Monday, Sept. 10, not expected to really hit the Charlotte area until sometime Friday, at the time. Even then, Charlotte could expect mostly heavy winds and rainfall.

“The hurricane was either gonna affect me here in Charlotte, my sister and her husband in Charleston or my family back at home in Apex. But, I’m staying put and just kind of prepping for everything. I really like that we did move the game up because there aren’t a lot of people here because it’s a Thursday night at 4 p.m, but we’re able to get that game in, which is really great for our players and our overall team experience and I think it strengthens our schedule too,” said junior Grace Fendrick.

Hurricane Florence dropped to a Category 1 by Friday, Sept. 14th and most of the effects of the storm were expected to roll through Friday evening through Sunday, with a risk of flooding over the weekend. A matchup on Saturday in Jerry Richardson Stadium would have been unlikely.

As for fans who originally had tickets to the Saturday game and were unable to attend the game when it was rescheduled to Thursday, other options for their tickets were made available.

“They can either get a credit which they can apply to a different game or even a different purchase, for example if they’re also basketball fans and they wanted to apply it to a basketball season ticket, they could do that. If it was a one-time shot and they just can’t do anything about a credit, we would refund their money. But of course we’re hoping that our fans will show up…and if not, that they apply for that credit, so that we could make sure they’re still able to attend a Niner game,” said Hill.

In order to make the most of the unusual circumstances and the weekday game, Hill and Deputy Athletic Director Darin Spease gave away tickets to the game through Twitter to help more fans attend the game.

“We need to win the football game and the more Niner fans we can put in the stadium, the better for us. It’s unusual, 4 o’clock on a Thursday, there’s no other college football really going on. To have folks here to cheer on our team and these guys is really why we do it; we want to give them the great fan experience and those guys on the field are gonna put everything on the line, so the more Niners the better,” said Spease.  

Niners celebrate after LB Juwan Foggie gets an interception. Photo by Chris Crews

Several students and alumni managed to reply to Spease and Hill’s tweets to get tickets to the game. Dave Russell, Charlotte class of 2000, was among the fans who were given tickets to attend the game.

“I had a situation where I could leave work early, figured if it’s gonna be raining a lot, maybe power outages this weekend, let’s enjoy the good weather while we’ve got it,” said Russell. “We’re excited about Mike Hill being here, think he brings a great energy to the program, so I follow him on Twitter and saw that he was giving tickets to students and thought why not ask if he’ll do it for an alum and he was kind enough to do it, so here we are.”

In any tough situation, someone always has to decide what to do and in the case of a Charlotte 49ers football game and Hurricane Florence on her way, there were a lot of people involved in making the best and safest decision for everyone that would be affected.

Darts, naps and soccer

From left: Callum Montgomery, Dean Rutherford, Daniel Bruce, Tommy Madden. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Athletics and Sam Roberts

After nearly clinching a conference tournament championship in their junior season, Charlotte Men’s Soccer seniors are ready to finish off their college career with quite a year.

Tommy Madden, Callum Montgomery, Daniel Bruce and Dean Rutherford have all been vital parts of this program in their time here, but every college athlete eventually reaches their final year donning their collegiate jersey.

“I think we’ve really enjoyed the relationships we’ve made in the locker room, you know coaches and players alike. Just growing closer as a unit together, enjoying the highs and going through the lows together as a team has been a really enjoyable kind of process,” said Bruce.

During their time on the field, these athletes do their best to lead by example in a lot of ways. On the field, keeping their composure and staying focused are important, but a lot goes into being leaders away from the field as well.

“We try to show them what it takes to be a part of the main squad, and that’s just really working hard obviously on and off of the field, doing everything the right way. Not just with school, but taking care of yourself as well, not getting too drawn into this other kind of life you could live as college student,” said Madden. “Just being that role model, showing what it takes to be a top player here is big.”

Each of these seniors certainly seem to live up to the expectations they have set for themselves. Montgomery was named pre-season Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as well as pre-season All-Conference USA for the 2018 season. He has collected many honors over his time at Charlotte including an early Defensive Player of the Week honor, which he also earned early in the 2017 season.

Madden and Bruce have also earned several honors over the years including both being named as pre-season All-Conference USA.

Rutherford has had his hand in many of the major goals for the Charlotte 49ers, such as an assist on the game-winning goal in the Conference USA Tournament semifinal game to go on to the championship game.

Sometimes the relationships you build come to mean far more than any of the honors you receive or things that you do as an athlete.

“Especially coming in with some of these guys, me and Brucey came in together, they (Madden and Bruce) came in together, so we’ve been here together for a long time now and building that bond together for four years now has been fantastic,” said Rutherford.

Aside from their accomplishments, they do wish they had done some things a little differently, whether it be not taking enough naps or not really making the best use of the opportunities within their reach.

“The facilities here are really amazing and I think my first year here, I regret not using and utilizing them as much as possible. Especially if you’re not playing as much your first year, just being able to use the amazing facilities and opportunities there are on campus with different areas, different coaches, the gym, the fields and just utilizing all of these things available to you is pretty important,” said Bruce.

Making the most of their time isn’t always easy, but these athletes certainly seem to have done so, even making time for the occasional round of darts, which apparently the soccer players enjoy doing quite often.

As far as what they plan to do at the end of their time at Charlotte as players, all of the senior stars hope to continue playing professionally when they leave the Niners.

“I think all of us have aspirations to play professionally, I can’t speak for them for sure, I know I definitely want to play professionally and then also probably pursue some sort or master’s or graduate’s degree, I’m not entirely sure yet,” said Montgomery.

These young men can be seen on Transamerica Field throughout the fall season leading the Niners to what will likely be a wonderful season. They will continue to do so Friday, Sept. 7 at Old Dominion at 7 p.m.

High Hopes

Benny LeMay and Mark Quattlebaum celebrate during the 2018 Spring Game. Photo by Chris Crews

After beginning the season as the team picked to finish last in the East Division and a 1-11 record in 2017, the Charlotte 49ers remain with their heads high and their sights set on some season-opening wins.

Last season, it seemed as if the Niners would get to the end of the season and have suffered heartbreak with a winless year. Instead, they showed fans why sticking around until the end of the game is always worth it and turned their Homecoming game into an amazing win.

After nearly ending the third quarter down 17-0 to UAB, quarterback Hasaan Klugh had a nine-yard touchdown run accompanied by an extra-point kick from Nigel Macauley to bring the score to 17-7.

Charlotte worked hard to rally in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Trent Bostick caught a 68-yard pass from Klugh to make it 17-14 with an extra point from Macauley. Macauley later helped to tie Charlotte with UAB by way of a 24-yard field goal. Regulation time ended and a victor had still yet to emerge, so the teams would continue the matchup in overtime.

The 49ers gave the Blazers the first go at offense in order to know what they needed to put up on the board to pull out a win. UAB scored to gain a 24-17 lead over the 49ers. Eight plays and 25 yards later, Klugh tallied his seventh touchdown of the season with a one-yard TD to put Charlotte on top at 25-24 in OT.

The Charlotte 49ers showed exactly how much heart they have in their single win of the 2017 season and intend to start the season off with even better energy.

With last season in mind, the Niners needed to make a lot of changes in order to work their way toward where they want to be in the future.

Plenty of new faces have been brought in this year, including coaching staff as well as players. A big change in the coaching staff was the addition of Charlotte’s new offensive coordinator, Shane Montgomery, who is just as optimistic as the guys putting on the pads.

“I know that we’re not happy with where the program is right now coming off of last year. But, that has nothing to do with last year. We have a great group of players, kids that worked really hard in the offseason and we’ve hired some new coaches and I think there’s a really good feeling around the program and we’re looking forward to Sept. 1,” Montgomery said.

Another new face around the stadium is Miami graduate, quarterback Evan Shirreffs. Shirreffs was the Hurricane’s backup QB this past year and looks to be a contender for a starter on the Niners offense.

“We’ll see how that shakes out, whether it’s Evan, Chris, Hasaan, who that guy is once we start playing live plays in camp, so we’ll see as that moves along who wins the job,” said Coach Brad Lambert.

Not only are there new members of the program, but along with a new season has come a new energy in the 49ers. They feel as if they have nothing to lose and plan to put it all on the field, letting their hard work do the talking.

“We’re excited for the season to come and we want to put a show on for the fans, they deserve to see us win. They’ve been supporting us for the most part and we’re going to do everything we can, and fill the stadium,” said running back Benny LeMay.

LeMay and the Niners will begin a three-game home series on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. in Jerry Richardson Stadium against Fordham University, who finished their 2017 season with a 4-7 record overall.

Baseball’s new practice facility roof collapses during construction

Photo by Pooja Pasupula.

The roof of the 49ers new indoor practice facility collapsed today, injuring one.

The Charlotte 49ers have been making a lot of changes this year, including introducing projects for new indoor practice facilities for both baseball and softball. The construction of the baseball practice facility has been making a lot of headway this summer.

It seemed a lot of progress was being made today until the recently placed roofing collapsed this afternoon injuring one person.

The injured was not a student or employee of UNC Charlotte, but an employee of the contract company who was then taken to Carolinas Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

As of mid-June, the facility was scheduled to be done and ready for use in October of this year and the project would be officially closed sometime in January.

Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

49ers host Green-White game

Calvin Camp extends at the end of a run. Photo by Chris Crews

This past Saturday, the Charlotte 49ers took the field and the lights came on for the sixth annual Spring Game. This coming fall season will be Charlotte’s fourth season as an FBS level program and as a member of Conference USA.

“It’s just a matter of people seeing us now for three full seasons in Division One football, so it’s just natural that hopefully you’re recruiting better and getting better players. Sixteen was a good year for us when we had all those old guys from the first class of 2012, so I’ve been proud of our guys since we’ve been here. But, we’ve got to continue to progress and just get better and keep recruiting and getting better and go out and win games,” coach Brad Lambert said. “Every spring game has been really good from my standpoint. You know, you look at the crowd and our fans are hungry, they want us to be succesful, they want us to win and they show up and they cheer for us. So, we’ve got to continue to get better and keep recruiting.”

The Green team, which consisted of first string players, outscored the White team 31-7 with the help of Benny LeMay and redshirt freshman Calvin Camp’s touchdowns and defensive efforts from forces like Alex Highsmith.

LeMay had seven carries for 55 yards and two touchdowns. He was also announced as one of four team captains at halftime.

In the second quarter, Highsmith got hands on White’s QB Joe Thompson, causing him to throw an interception to Denzel Irvin. A 31-yard field goal came out of the play, from John Brosnahan who made his way onto the team after the 2017 season.

“Alex just kind of continued what he’s done all spring. He’s turned into one of the hardest working guys on our team. He came here as a walk-on and really has impacted our team and has really worked himself into a position to be a starter and I’ve just been really proud of him,” Lambert said.

Hasaan Klugh, who spent some time as the Green QB, passed for 42 yards and to LeMay for a 25-yard touchdown run to end the half at 17-0.

Camp went on in the second half to add seven rushes for 109 yards as well as two touchdowns – one off of  a 59-yard run. Camp also had two catches for 26 yards and brought Green to their final score of 31 with a 3-yard run early in the fourth.

“It was fun getting back out there and just enjoying it, playing with my teammates. It’s faster so we’ve just got to pick up the face with it. I’m catching on as I go, but there’s still more to learn,” Camp said.

Chris Reynolds saw action as the Green QB and went 3-for-3 for 23 yards on the very first touchdown drive for the Green team. He spread his passes for eight completions across six different players including Workpeh Kofa for 15, LeMay for 14, Camp for 12 and Mark Quattlebaum for 11.

Klugh who alternated with Reynolds for Green a bit, went 5-for-6 passing for 75 yards. Green’s longest reception of the evening came by way of Klugh and an impressive catch from freshman Victor Tucker.

The White team finally put some numbers up when Cade Barnhill had a 36-yard touchdown catch from QB Willie Green in the fourth quarter. Barnhill led all receivers in yardage with two catches for 65 yards.

All of the White QB’s ended the game with a combined 5-for-10 passing for 77 yards and a single touchdown and reception.

All in all, a good day for Niner Nation after an afternoon filled with football and rising excitement for the coming 2018 season of Charlotte 49ers football.

“It was a really fun time to go over and host our own kind of a tailgate and have all of our friends come out and kind of just enjoy a good time before the game. I think the spring game and the nice weather made everyone want to come out and watch our guys together as a part of Niner Nation, it was just really exciting,” sophomore Noah Carlson said.

As the Spring 2018 practice season has come to a close, Charlotte looks ahead to several home games starting with a Sept. 1 game against Fordham, a Sept 8. game against Appalachian State and the Conference USA opener facing Old Dominion.

Charlotte falls to Carolina in last uptown game of the season

Dominick Cammarata comes across home after his two-run homer. Photo by Chris Crews.

The 49ers were unable to stop the Tar Heel offense uptown, falling 14-2 in their last game at BB&T Ballpark.

Dominick Cammarata’s two-run homer in the fourth inning would not be enough to get the Niners going. By the end of the night, six different 49ers had taken the mound. Chase Gooding started off the night and played 3.1 innings allowing four runs, four hits and one strikeout. Drew Morrison took to the mound for 3.2 innings, allowing no runs, two hits and two strikeouts.

“They got off to a good start and we didn’t have an answer from a pitching standpoint. We kind of take two steps forward and one step back every once and a while. We just couldn’t find the right guy to keep them off balance and had no rhythm at all,” Coach Loren Hibbs said.

On the mound for Carolina was Rodney Hutchison who only allowed six hits and handed over six strikeouts.

Carolina led off with three runs in the first thanks to an RBI and a sacrifice fly. Brandon Martorano provided a three-run homer in the fourth where the Tar Heels added four runs. With the help of Kyle Datres, they would add five more runs in the fifth just after Cammarata sent his homer out. Drew Ober made it to first on a single to third and Cammarata added a hard one out to left center to run both of them in for the first and only runs the Niners would score.

Cammarata and Zack Smith each garnered two hits while Jackson Mims and Reece Hampton would each add one for the night.

Together the teams combined for 22 hits, 16 runs and only three errors.

The Charlotte 49ers will return to Conference-USA action this Thursday, Mar. 29 at 6 p.m. at Hayes Stadium to begin a series against UAB.

Hill hires mens basketball coach

Sanchez interacting with the bench during a game. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics

Chancellor Phillip DuBois and Athletic Director Mike Hill have made a big move in hiring Charlotte’s new men’s basketball coach, Ron Sanchez.

“I would like to thank Chancellor Dubois and Director of Athletics Mike Hill for this incredible opportunity,” Sanchez said. “I am honored and humbled that they have entrusted me with their men’s basketball program. I have waited a long time for the right fit and I truly believe in the leadership of this department. I cannot be more excited to get started.

Sanchez has been on staff at nationally-ranked Virginia for the past nine years, and has been the associate head coach for the last three. In his time there, Virginia has seen three ACC regular season titles, two ACC tournament titles, has made six appearances in the NCAA tournament and one appearance in the NIT. In their tournament appearances, they have received a No. 1 seed, three times.

Prior to being hired by Charlotte, Sanchez played a big part in two-time National Coach of the Year Tony Bennett’s career as well, during their time at Washington State and Virginia.

Before working as a coach at Virginia, Sanchez was an assistant coach at Washington State. During his time at Washington State, they appeared in the NCAA tournament twice as well as playing in the NIT once. In the seasons through 2006-2008, the team tied their school record with 26 wins. In 2008, the Cougars made it to the Sweet 16 and played in Charlotte. During his time with the Cougars, he was integral in recruiting NBA All-Star and former Washington State star, Klay Thompson.

“Ron Sanchez embodies everything we could possibly want in a head basketball coach,” Hill said. “His reputation is impeccable as a teacher, leader, assessor and developer of talent, and recruiter. Most importantly, he is a man of high character and integrity. This is a great day for the Charlotte 49ers.”

Before coaching at Washington State, he was the director of operations from 2002-2005. For the two seasons before, he was a volunteer assistant coach at University of Indiana and while helping them to reach the NCAA Tournament Championship game in 2002, he earned a masters degree in athletic administration/sports management.

Sanchez’s coaching career began at State University of New York College at Oneonta for the 1998-99 season, after he graduated from there in 1997. In 1996 he was named State University of New York Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship Most Valuable Player.

After his coaching season at Oneonta, he was the associate head coach for Delhi College for two years. Within those two years Delhi won 31 games, earned the Region III championship and went on to finish fourth in the National Junior College Athletic Association Championship Tournament.

Sanchez also had the opportunity to take part as an assistant coach for the Dominican Republic National Team in the summer of 2013, to finish fourth at the FIBA Americas Championship in order to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Championships for the first time since 1978.

The Charlotte men’s basketball team had a dismal 6-23 season this year, collecting on two conference wins.

Charlotte suffers losses to 19th-ranked ECU

Drew Ober takes a swing at a pitch earlier in the season. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers baseball team is no longer undefeated at home this season after a three-game series sweep from 19-ranked ECU Pirates.

Game 1

In the lowest scoring game of the series, the Niners seemed to have quite a hard time getting much of an offense going and lost the game 1-3.

Spencer Brickhouse would score in the Pirates’ first run early in the first inning by Turner Brown who had gotten out to first on his own single and around to second on a bunt from Connor Litton. Brickhouse would grab the next run off of a single from Jake Washer.

In the third, the Pirates stretched their lead to three when Washer scored in Brickhouse with a double off of the wall after Brickhouse was walked out to first.

Reece Hampton’s second hit of the afternoon started off the road to Charlotte’s only run of the game in the 6th. Making his way across the bases, he managed to place himself on third with one out by the time Harris Yett would single to the other side to run Hampton in.

Yett and Hampton would both end the game with 2 hits apiece.

Trey Benton who pitched 8.1 innings to come away with one run against him on jut five hits, and fanned six, would come out to start the ninth to close out the ECU win. Alec Burleson snagged the last two outs to help seal the deal.

Game 2

Both the Niners and the Pirates would remain scoreless until the seventh inning when ECU would begin the scoring with 4 in their half of the frame.

Litton had a leadoff walk to start it off before Washer doubled to left and Jeremy Whithead hit a fly to center, giving Litton the first run of the game. Brad Lloyd’s two-out single gave a second run to the Pirates. Lloyd stole second to get ready for Dusty Baker to bring him home. Brown would then bring in Baker with the third straight RBI single.

Charlotte would answer with two runs to begin cutting down their deficit. Tommy Bullock made it to first on an infield single, stole second, and slid onto third by way of Todd Elwood and his single to center. Tate Pennington hit one out into right to run in both Bullock and Elwood.

Drew Henrickson would score in Whitehead who lead off after getting hit by a pitch in the 9th. Brown laid down a bunt with runners at first and third to score in Henrickson to extend the Pirate lead to 6-2.

The Niners came close, adding three more runs in the bottom of the 9th and nearly another, but would lose their second game to ECU 6-5. Dominick Cammarata and Bullock began with a pair of back-to-back infield singles just before Hunter Jones got to base on an ECU error to run in Bullock for the third Charlotte run. Pennington and Drew Ober would help to push the score to 6-5, but it would not be enough.

Bullock, Cammarata, Elwood and Pennington each tallied two hits for Charlotte.

Game 3

Washer would lead off the third inning with home run to get the game going for ECU early. Baker and Brown’s back-to-back bunts would bring the lead to 3-0.

In the fourth, Alec Burleson cleared the bases with a double down right field. Spencer Brickhouse then sent a fly ball out for two more Pirate runs.

In the fifth, Burleson and Baker would help to score the ninth and tenth runs of the game. Seth Caddell would then hit a homer in the eighth inning giving ECU two more runs to make the game 12-0. In the bottom half, Charlotte added two runs of their home to just miss a shutout.

Sam Mennitt made it out to the bases with a hit and Eric Lansinger would get out there off of an ECU error. Both runners moved along the bases to get into position to score some Charlotte runs before Drew Ober ran in Mennitt for the first Niner run. Jones later hit Ober in for the Niners’ second and final score of the night.

The Charlotte 49ers will take on Wake Forest this coming Tuesday, Mar. 13 at 7:05 p.m. at BB&T Ballpark.

Niners fall one short of four-win weekend; reach season highs against UNCW

Carson Pace winds up for a pitch. Photo by Katelynn Pennington.

The Charlotte 49ers held their First Pitch Classic this past weekend sliding through with three impressive wins, but couldn’t seem to get an offense going against Radford in their second game on Friday afternoon. The Niners also reached some new season highs in the final game of the weekend and Coach Aimee DeVos tallied her 600th win.

Game One – Charlotte 6, Dayton 5

In the first game of the Classic, Charlotte rallied for a comeback walk-off in extra innings to give Coach DeVos her 600th win.

Haley Wiseman and Flyer, Manda Cash both pitched scoreless innings until the Niners kicked off the runs with two in the bottom of the fourth. Wiseman struck out seven batters, including five of the first six that came to the plate.

Dayton would then grab their 4-2 lead adding three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth. Now Charlotte was behind with two outs and two girls on base.

Grace Beatty helped to tie it up scoring in Kiersten Berrier from second and Haley Pace from first. The Flyers would answer with one more run in the top of the eighth leaving the Niners in place to have to score again.

With Meredith Harris on second, Spenser Gray would bunt to push her to third with a single out left. With an error from Dayton’s third baseman, Bethany Doty sent Harris in to home and Erin Powers would pinch run for Doty still with only one out left. The Niners were now tied yet again.

Becca Shipper stepped up to the plate to hit a walk-off single to right center field to end the game with the first Charlotte win of the weekend.

Game 2 – Radford 8, Charlotte 0

In the second game of Friday afternoon, Charlotte couldn’t seem to give quite the same offense against the Highlanders.

Radford tallied two runs to start of the match in the first inning and added five more in the second. Charlotte left the bases loaded in both the third and fourth innings, but were unable to capitalize. Radford went on to score an eighth run in the fifth for the final run of the day.

Berrier and Pace would each add two hits for the Niners. Junior Lauren Riley stepped on the mound to see her first action of the season, pitching 3.2 innings to relieve Alison Green, and allowed only one run and struck out two batters.

Game 3 – Charlotte 4, Dayton 0

Charlotte came back the next day ready to grab another solid win, clinching their first shutout of the season over Dayton.

Four Niners reached base in the first inning, allowing for Wiseman to keep a 2-0 lead.

Shipper walked to get it going and moved to second when Berrier sent a bunt to just the right spot. Pace sent a hit to left field to put the Niners at a 1-0 lead and Grace Beatty added another, sending one shooting past the third baseman to score Shipper in.

Charlotte then added another run in the fourth inning and in the fifth to get their fourth run. Emma Ocker singled to left field and got pushed to second by Jude McGough’s bunt with an out left.

Shipper hit off the fifth by a double and then moved on to third courtesy of a bunt from Berrier. Pace added her second RBI of the game with a fly way out to right.

Dayton only came close with the bases loaded in the sixth inning with two outs when Wiseman tallied her final strikeout of the evening. Rhoney had the final out with runners on first and third to finalize the Niners’ shutout.

Game 4 – Charlotte 7, UNCW 3

Reaching new season highs, Charlotte crushed a 7-3 win over UNCW in their final match of the weekend.

Carson Pace relieved Wiseman with two outs in the fourth and Domique Travers sent Kali Jones home and came home herself off of a homer down left field from Meghan Whitecavage.

Pace would allow only only hit and strike out two batters in 2.1 innings. Rhoney then pitched a perfect seventh inning to finish out the final Charlotte win of the weekend.

Haley Pace sent an RBI down left field to score Becca Shipper who led off the inning with a walk and moved further through the bases thanks to a bunt from Berrier. Charlotte put up four more runs off of only four hits in the fourth inning. Lizzy Birch and Meredith Harris sent back-to-back doubles just after Ocker hit an infield single. Harris would bring both Ocker and Birch in.

Shipper sent a single right inside first base to score Harris and put Spenser Gray who walked, on to third. Doty led off with a walk in the fifth and McGough would pinch run to score off of a triple from Ocker.

The Niners tallied 11 hits matching their season high and reached new season highs in doubles and in runs scored.

Next up, Charlotte will face USC Upstate next at 2 and 4 p.m. at Sue M. Daughtrige Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Just like old times

A group of players, past and present, take a photo on center court. Photo by Chris Crews

In 1985, Jeff Mullins inherited a last place team in the Sun Belt conference, and three years later he would take them to the conference championship for an incredible win. The Niners would receive an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, being the only team in the conference to get one, their first since 1977. Now, Charlotte hosts an alumni game to honor the staff and players who were a part of the program at the time and among other years.

“I’m back here today because we’re honoring the ‘88 team and that was our first group, you know the burner was real down and they were just a determined bunch of guys. We had a really good year my third season here and we weren’t that talented, but they really blended together,” former Coach Jeff Mullins said (‘85-‘96). “It’s great to see everybody again and hear about what they’re doing, and see their families who are here. It’s just special.”

Not only did the Niners win a Sun Belt Championship, but they have had some other impressive runs as well. Several years earlier, coach Lee Rose led the Niners to the NIT and then the next season, all the way to the NCAA Final Four. Michael Stikeleather who was an athletic trainer for the team at the time, spent the afternoon this past Saturday coaching one of the teams in the alumni game.

“Nobody expected us to go to the NIT. We were some Cinderella team that got to beat some big school from the ACC, we stormed the court and it was just crazy, we blocked that last second shot to beat NC State. We went on to the final to play University of Kentucky and we hung right with them, but we just couldn’t quite pull that one out. But, we had Cedric Maxwell who went on to play for the Boston Celtics won the MVP for the tournament,” Stikeleather said. “Now, the next year we went on to the NCAA tournament and played Marquette in the Final Four and they won 51-49. Of course, we shocked everyone because we took Marquette to the final seconds. In the finals, they played UNC Chapel Hill and Marquette beat them, so it felt nice to have played as well as we did.”

In Charlotte’s first year in the Sun Belt conference, they had what was was arguably their best season in program history and they didn’t let up in the next few seasons either.

Now, with the alumni games, those players and staff get to relive those moments a little and it has just become one of those things that fills their hearts all over again. Coach Houston Fancher looked forward to the event and recalled a time when he was watching these players live in those particular moments.

“On that ‘88 team, Byron Dinkins was one of the first basketball players I remember seeing for Charlotte when I first learned about Charlotte basketball. I remember him being one of the most talented guards I ever saw play. I thought he was fantastic and he led that team and that team fed off of him, his energy, his talent. He’s turned into a terrific coach here in the area as well,” Fancher said.

In addition to an admiration for the players, Fancher also has a personal relation with some of the guys.

“Chris Baker played on that team back in that era too and I actually babysat Chris when he was a youngster back in my hometown. His grandfather ran the city park in our hometown and I worked for the city during my summers and my job was to watch Chris. Turns out Chris ended up being a point guard here at Charlotte and we still remain good friends to this day. He always comes to our game when we play at Western Kentucky, so I see him there too, but he’s a guy I’ve always been fond of.”

Niners hold their own with UAB; can’t get a win

Andrien White drives to the basket around a defender. Photo by Chris Crews.

Even with Andrien White dropping 23 coming off of an injury to lead Charlotte (5-15, 1-8 C-USA), they were still unable to pull out a win over UAB (15-8, 6-4 C-USA). The Niners lost 76-64 after being tied 40-40 at the half.

“We didn’t have to play from behind tonight, we got off to a better start which is something we’ve been looking for. Some of the same shots that fell in the first half weren’t falling in the second half,” Coach Houston Fancher said. “But, you know there’s controllable things. We talked about our free throws and our turnovers and thing that we’re charge of. There were a lot of good things to pull out from tonight other than a win.”

White, who led the team with 23 points showed once again how much he has to give this season, coming back form an injury, tallying his 48th career double-figure scoring game. Jon Davis also did his part yet again having 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Ryan Murphy working to stay on his hot streak, also gave the Niners 10 points, remaining in double-figures for a third game. Najee Garvin would grab 12 rebounds to do his part as well as add nine points.

“I think it is tough to keep bouncing back. I think our team is together enough that coming in and and being in the locker room with those guys every day and getting on the floor and competing with them every day, we don’t mind bouncing back at all. We’re here to do that and that’s what we’re going to keep doing until the last buzzer sounds,” White said.

Charlotte began the game well with a 9-2 lead after Austin Ajukwa got the Niners started with a three and Davis, Garvin and Murphy would each add a lay-up. UAB cut down the trail by the end of the fourth minute, but a three from Davis would send it right back up. A constant battle by the Blazers to get back up seemed to always be followed by Charlotte just barely maintaining their lead.

By the end of the eighth minute UAB held a lead of 15-14 and furthered their lead to 26-17 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. A few crowd-exciting threes from White and Murphy, as well as a lay-up from Murphy got Charlotte back in it, tied with UAB at 33 points. The half would conclude at 40-40.

Ajukwa would help the Niners to tie the game again at 48 six minutes in to the second half, but the next time UAB gained a lead they would keep it for nearly the remainder of the game.

Charlotte tied the game again at 50 points and White even got the 49ers close again making the score 54-53, but Charlotte never gain another lead only getting as close as within a couple points.

“It’s hard to keep coming, it’s hard to keep bouncing back,” Fancher said. “I believe in these kids and they believe in and trust each other and continue to work. They come to practice every day and give us everything they have and in the position I’m in right now, that’s all I can ask for. I think we’ll ultimately get to the point where we start winning some basketball games.”

Charlotte had the first half that they had been looking for, they just couldn’t keep it going. A showing of teamwork and a fight that they had been needing wouldn’t be enough.

Charlotte will next face first in the conference, Middle Tennessee, in Halton Arena this Saturday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.

Fancher ties on apron for cancer fundraising

Fancher serves subs for fundraising. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Athletics

Men’s basketball head coach Houston Fancher changed roles to a sandwich artisan at the Subway on campus for an hour on Tuesday, Jan. 23, as a part of Subway’s Coaches Versus Cancer fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

“I think it’s imperative we stand up and fight this. It’s not going to go away on its own. It’s important that we step forward, make contributions and do what we can to help fight this dreaded disease,” Fancher said. “I just love the opportunity to be out here, to be on the platform that I’m on right now and step aside and do something in support of this great cause. I’m all for it.”

Donations can be made at the Subway in the Cone Center through the end of February. The money raised  will help better and save lives from cancer. The money that goes to the society help to provide access to better care and prevention of cancer through research, education, advocacy and service.

Many coaches now participate and raise money in whatever ways they can through events including 3-point challenges and the Suits and Sneakers.

“Some of the coaches in our region are all stepping forward and spending some time at Subway to help promote this cause. I think it’s important for us to step outside of our box so that we can do things too to help fight this,” Fancher said.

The awareness continues through Saturday when the 49ers turn their attention to their attire. All of the events are aimed at one goal: raise money and attention for cancer research.

“It’s Coaches Versus Cancer Weekend in the NCAA this weekend, so we’ll be wearing tennis shoes with our suits during our games to once again raise awareness and that’s why we’re here today. To raise awareness, to draw support and to continue to fight this dreaded disease.”

Fancher said he prepared for the hour of making sandwiches for students by making an abundance of sandwiches for his family the night before. As a coach on campus, he has spent his own time standing in the lines at Subway in Cone and knew exactly what to expect come the time for students to be getting out of their 11 o’clock classes.

“We can excite students and make them aware of what’s going on here. They enjoy the process here, I’m not sure if they enjoy their sandwiches or not, but I hope they’ll be aware that what we are trying to fight here, we’ve got to do it together,” Fancher said.

Students seemed to really enjoy meeting Fancher in this environment, and he certainly seemed to enjoy it as well. The coach was incredibly light-hearted about making sandwiches for everyone while trying to help bring awareness to the cause of Coaches versus Cancer.

“I think it’s a team fight, it’s something that we are all together trying to do, it’s not just an individual doing that. We’re helping to raise awareness and that’s what makes me excited about it, it gives me a chance to say, ‘Hey, this something that we need to do together,’” Fancher said.

The 49ers will play their Suits and Sneakers game on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. against Old Dominion in Halton Arena.