Sam Palian

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Winning games and building a culture

Martha Thomas drills the ball past VCU opponent. Photo by Pooja Pasupula.

In any sport and on every team, there are firsts and there are lasts and the seniors of Charlotte Women’s Soccer are experiencing some of these this fall. There is always a first game, a first goal and a first time playing a certain position or against a particular team. There will be last goals, last games and a last time playing with teammates that have become part of a family.

Kyla Clark, Shealyn Dwyer, Virginia Lingo and Martha Thomas are doing what they can to make this last year at Charlotte the best they have ever seen.

Having been Conference USA Champions last season and dropping the first round game of the NCAA Tournament, the girls had high hopes for their team this year.

“It’s definitely weird to be a senior, you know people say it will fly by and it definitely does and I can’t believe how fast it’s come. I’m really proud of where I am right now, I think our team is moving in a really good direction, so I’m really excited for my senior year to go out even better than last year,” Thomas said.

Thomas, an All-American candidate and currently among the top 10 finalists for the annual Senior CLASS Award, began the year as the Preseason C-USA Offensive Player of the Year. She was the fourth player in the conference to be named to National Team of the Week this season by TopDrawerSoccer.com, this being the fourth time in her career including an honorable mention giving her the most of such honors of any individual in program history.

Thomas has scored 10 goals so far this season among her 43 career goals so far, scoring two goals in the conference opener against Marshall to bring her to 41 goals. This made her the player with the most career goals in Charlotte women’s soccer history, surpassing Whitney Weinraub’s 39 goals.

“I would honestly say it’s one of those things that’s just happened. It’s not something that when I came to this program I said to myself, ‘I’m gonna break records and score goals.’ I was never really a goal scorer before I came here to be completely honest with you. It’s just been a result of how much passion I have for the game and it’s just come in a way, naturally, and I haven’t had to force anything. I don’t go game by game saying, ‘ I need to score I need to score.’ My teammates and we as a team create a lot of opportunities and I’ve just been on the end of them,” Thomas said.

One of the teammates that helps to create these opportunities is Virginia Lingo, who has an extreme passion, similar to Thomas, for what she does on and off the field here at Charlotte.

Virginia Lingo dribbles the ball. Photo by Katelynn Pennington

Having taken five of her 15 career shots on goal so far this season, Lingo acquired her first official career goal this season against Gardner-Webb last month, with an assist from her fellow senior teammate Martha Thomas.

Much like the rest of the Charlotte women’s soccer program, Lingo holds herself and her teammates to an even higher standard this year, hoping to be repeat conference champions and move further within the NCAA Tournament.

“I think that we need to think about the goal in mind every time we get out there and just try to do better and know that if we’re messing up, we have higher expectations of us this year,” Lingo said.

A third senior on the Charlotte Women’s soccer squad is Shealyn Dwyer, who in addition to her teammates is working her hardest to help lead her team to another Conference USA championship win.

Having played in the Conference USA championship win against FAU and the first round match of the NCAA tournament against Duke, Dwyer couldn’t be hungrier for her team for another championship title and to advance further in the NCAA tournament as well.

“It’s going to be a challenge to defend our title, but that’s the goal. Back to back trophies, holding those up. That’s gonna be awesome and we’re striving toward that every day,” Dwyer said.

In order to accomplish such feats as the Charlotte Women’s Soccer program has, a team has to be united and has to work hard to hold each other to a higher standard than other teams do. These young women are working tirelessly together to improve, to progress forward this season, make moves to better the program by getting further in the NCAA tournament and possibly even win a national title.

“This year is different from other seasons, because I feel like we’re more of a family and I feel like that camaraderie really helps us win and lose together, work harder and practice harder together just to get back to the championship,” Dwyer said.

It is evident throughout games and after the final minutes have run off of the clock that the 49ers are a family that supports each other in a big way, win or lose.

Last, but certainly not least among the senior squad is Kyla Clark.

Kyla Clark celebrates her first goal with her teammates. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Doubling as both a defender and a forward, Clark accompanied Lingo in scoring her first career goal this season against VCU within the fifth minute of play off of yet another assist by her co-captain Martha Thomas.

“For the past three years, I found myself playing in more defensive roles and this year, I’ve kind of been playing in more attacking roles and so it was exciting to actually get a goal and be a part of the attack,” Kyla Clark said.

Clark agrees that the team has grown closer and this has helped them strive toward reaching their goals of winning regular season, another conference championship and again get the program into the NCAA tournament and continue to prove the program’s dominance.

“We’re just trying to hold everyone accountable, making sure everyone’s working hard together, keeping the team close really helps. And we’re not just doing it for the championship, we’re trying to leave a culture that lasts beyond from when we were here and set the team up for success in the future,” Clark said.

These hardworking seniors will be honored Oct. 19 for Senior Night at Transamerica Field. The 49ers take on North Texas at 7 p.m.

 

49ers lose heartbreaker to No. 5 Louisville

Daniel Bruce tries to escape a Louisville defender. Photo by Chris Crews

Charlotte (5-4-3) controlled the game extremely well for the larger part of the game, forcing fifth ranked Louisville (10-1-3) to remain at Transamerica for extra time, but lost to the Cardinals 1-0 in overtime.

“I’m really proud of the guys, the effort was fantastic. We took a good team down to the wire and we should have won the game. This sets us up nicely as we move on through the rest of the season and the postseason,” Charlotte Coach Kevin Langan said.

Cardinal Liam Bennett scored the lone goal of the night in the 96th minute of play after a pass from Adrien Cabon to Adam Wilson and then to Bennett for his shot into the upper left corner of the net. Charlotte led in shots 12-8 and Louisville led in shots on goal 4-3.

Teddy Chaouche led the Niners in shots with four while Ryan Spaulding and Daniel Bruce both took two and Callum Montgomery, Myles Brown, Sean Bowman and Fernando Garcia would each take one apiece as well.

Several great scoring opportunities occurred for Charlotte back to back starting in the 55th minute with two shots by Teddy Chaouche including a free kick that hit the cross bar and a shot saved by Louisville goalkeep Will Meyers. In the 58th minute, Callum Montgomery would contribute a nice shot as well, but it would be stopped by Meyers yet again.

Shortly after these shots was a corner in the 77th minute by Spaulding that came ever so close to curving into the net, but it was also stopped by Louisville’s Meyers.

A game full of wonderful passes, impressive footwork and incredibly aggressive play was not enough for the Niners for to get another win over Louisville, now having a record of 9-6 against the Cardinals.

“We’ve just got to keep going, got to keep believing, keep making the same runs, doing the same work,” Langan said. “It’ll hurt tonight and tomorrow we’ll get straight back at it, start focusing on Friday with South Carolina. So, that’s the nature of college, you know you don’t have time to celebrate too much and you don’t have time to commiserate too much, there’s just another huge conference game coming up for us on Friday.”

Zhuvonte Wilson who a tremendous game off of the bench offensively against Louisville, along with his fellow seniors Marco Sunol-Rojas and Sean Bowman, will be recognized for their senior night before their conference game against the South Carolina Gamecocks this Friday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Transamerica Field.

 

 

Niners draw 1-1 against Golden Eagles

Niners huddle before the match. Photo by Chris Crews.

The 49ers (9-5-1, 4-2-1 C-USA) came to a tie at a score of 1-1 with Southern Miss (6-6-3, 0-4-3 C-USA) after double over time.

Beginning the match nearly an hour later than the original start time due to no-show officials, all of the Charlotte seniors saw starting spots for the first time this season along with freshman Maddie Bragaw who had her first career start against Southern Miss.

Several shots early on in play by both teams set the tone for the game to be a very competitive one.

Charlotte led in corner kicks a mighty 12-1, a number of them taken by senior Virginia Lingo having taken three within less than a minute of play during the first half and a fourth less than a minute after the last.

Megan Greene, Martha Thomas and Lingo each had shots on goal, including a close header by Greene before Thomas scored the lone goal of the match off of a penalty kick as a result of a yellow given to Golden Eagle goalkeeper Kelly Brahmbatt for a foul toward Greene at 28:09.

Unluckily for Charlotte, Southern Miss quickly responded to their deficit with a strong offense and a loose ball near the Charlotte goal resulted in an own goal by Charlotte to bring the score to 1-1 within the same minute of play at 28:50.

The late start was just the beginning of the lengthy day this game would turn out to be when a delay due to lightning occurred with less than four minutes left in the first half and everyone would keep off of the field for 30 minutes.

As scoring concluded in the 29th minute of play the rest of the match was quite a battle, much of that battle being among the midfield in the larger part of the second half.

It certainly was a tough game for both the Niners and the Golden Eagles, both working hard and creating the right opportunities and simply not being able to capitalize on them and break down the other’s defense.

“As a coaching staff, I just think we’re immensely proud of the girls, it was a long, tough day for us today,” said Coach John Cullen. “They just worked so hard and played so well today.”

Charlotte had many chances to score, finishing the game with 29 shots to the Golden Eagles’ 15 and 13-9 shots on goal. Riley Orr who took five shots had a shot several yards outside the 18 that flew just over the net and an impressive header close to the net by Sophie Sipprell in 67th minute of play was saved and also would not produce a much needed 49ers goal.

Megan Greene led the team in shots with seven while both Thomas and Orr took five and Jamie Frankhauser had taken four.

Golden Eagle Beth Coleman led Southern Miss in shots with five goals, three of which were on frame with her first shot being within the eighth minute of play.

Seniors Kyla Clark, Shealyn Dwyer, Lingo, and All-America candidate Thomas who were all members of the starting 11 at Southern Miss will be honored at their senior night prior to their next home match at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19 at Transamerica Field facing North Texas.

 

 

The Mean Green family

The team huddles during practice. Photo by Sam Palian

There are over 400 different student organizations on campus and at least 35 of these are sports clubs. One of these clubs is Women’s Rugby.

The Women’s Rugby club at Charlotte was started in 1996 by Kandas Burnett. Four years later, in 2000, the club took a break and then reassembled again in 2008 by way of Maddy Clark and other UNC Charlotte graduates. These young ladies may not have known what kind of a staple this club would be in the lives of many other students in the future, but it certainly has proven to be one.

“Rugby has meant everything to me. These women aren’t just my teammates they’re my family. Even the alumni show love every time they show up,” junior Rachel Jordan said.

Like Jordan said, this is a club with a strong alumni presence, and is currently being coached by former player Allie Pickett. Many other former coaches and players will come around from time to time to help out as well.

The women who are members of the Charlotte Women’s Rugby Club clearly have the drive to be great on and off the field and push each other to do so, this being one of the club’s goals which they surely seem to achieve.

The Mean Green does their best to encourage each other in more ways than one. They push each other to get better in practice and their games speak to this. Not only do they provide encouragement as athletes and as teammates, but they also have important relationships with each other that they may not have otherwise had if it were not for joining the club.

“When you join our rugby team, you gain a family for life,” junior Mikayla Coxe said.

To these students this sports club involves much more than just a game. The team’s practices immediately exhibit their work ethic as well as their ability to just enjoy each other and have a good time. A family, as the girls describe, is fairly evident and a big family at that.

A large number of the members of the team had never played rugby or knew too much about the sport until joining this club. The club prides itself on being open to anyone and being able to help them catch on to the sport and in turn, become skilled in the game fairly quickly as well.

“I actually had never played rugby before I got to UNC Charlotte and it has easily become one of the best parts of my life. Rugby has taught me to be a leader a well as help me grow as an athlete and an overall better person. I’m forever grateful for this club and the opportunities it has given me,” junior Tia Wilson said.

They recently played their first friendly-season game of the year against Elon University, winning their match 67-0. In the previous season of 2016-2017, the women finished their fall season with a record of 4-0 and then placed 13th in the country in their division. The club plays their more competitive season in the spring and do just as tremendously.

The team is working hard this year to get better than ever before and all of the players seem to be very committed to this goal. Moving smoothly in the latter parts of the playoffs each season, the team is hoping to make it even further this year.

“I think we will do well this year. We have a very strong team, and our new players have picked up the game incredibly quickly. After making it to regional playoffs for the past two years, we are hoping to make nationals in the spring,” senior Maggie Reichard said.

Working toward a national championship, the team has high hopes, but are undoubtedly doing their best to make it happen.

Charlotte drops 4th straight to Georgia State

Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert on the sidelines. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers football program suffered the first shutout in program history in their 28-0 defeat against Georgia State on Saturday night. The Panthers (1-2) scored two touchdowns in the first half and two again in the second, the 49ers (0-4) had less than 20 minutes of possession time during the contest.

Offensively, the 49ers started off slow, pushing for 19 yards total in the first quarter to combat the Panthers’ 92 yards. In Charlotte’s total possession of four minutes and twenty-three seconds in the first quarter, Benny Lemay rushed for seven yards as did Hasaan Klugh, who also recorded a pass to Mark Quattlebaum for five yards.

Georgia State quarterback Conner Manning passed for 172 yards in the first half, including a 32 yard pass to Penny Hart for the second touchdown of the night with 44 seconds left in the half.

The Panthers led Charlotte in third down conversions 7-0 by the end of the first quarter and 15-4 at the finish of the first half. Unfortunately, to the Panthers’ 15 third down conversions, Charlotte only had four such conversions by the end of the half. Unable to capitalize on the offensive opportunities, the 49ers ended the first three of five drives in the 2nd quarter with punts by Arthur Hart.

“We’ve got to find a way to generate some offense. I thought Benny was running hard, but you know I’ll give Georgia State credit they’ve got a big defensive front and we’ve got to block them and make plays. They had played two pretty good teams, we knew that they were a good team coming in. It doesn’t surprise me at all, but we’ve got to play better on offense,” Charlotte Coach Brad Lambert said.

Quattlebaum caught six passes from Klugh to gain 91 yards, including a pass to gain 52 yards in the 2nd quarter pushing Charlotte as far as the 12-yard line. It was here that it looked as if the Niners were ready to rally, but in the very next play after a Charlotte timeout, Panthers safety Bryan Williams intercepted a pass from Klugh in the end zone and returned for six yards.

“We’ve just got to look inside of ourselves just to see what we’ve got to do personally and what we can do to help the team as an individual before we can do anything, honestly,” redshirt junior Quattlebaum said. “We’ve just got to eliminate all the self, anything that has to do with self, and just play for everybody else on our team and just give it everything we’ve got.”

At the conclusion of the first half, Charlotte had 22 rushing yards for the Panthers’ 67, but also had a more respectable 121 passing yards in comparison to Georgia State’s 172 passing yards. This was a significant improvement from Klugh’s five passing yards in the first quarter to his 116 yards in the second quarter, still the slowly developing 49ers offense could not pull off any points. The first half finished behind 14-0, hoping to come back out in the second half and strike gold.

The third quarter presented the Niners with one longer drive than the Panthers’ two drives combined, but still ended with no score either way. Tackles by Karrington King, Juwan Foggie, Marquavis Gibbs, Ben DeLuca and others kept Georgia State from a third quarter score, yet the Niners would continue to go without an offensive performance to produce a score.

In the start of the fourth quarter came a heartbreaking play for the Niners when a field goal attempt by Georgia State’s Brandon Wright was blocked and then touched by Jeff Gemmell in the end zone, only to be recovered by Shamarious Gilmore for the Panthers’ third touchdown and field goal sending them into a 21-0 lead over Charlotte.

“I knew we stopped it, I knew what was going through Jeff’s mind. You know, you tell them not to fool with the ball if it crosses the line of scrimmage, but it was in the air so long. I could just see what was going through his head, he was going to try and make something happen, so we had a goofy play there,” Lambert said. “We did some good things defensively, but you know once again you’ve got to get yourself up the field in the first half.”

Benny LeMay rushed for 83 yards against Georgia State, rushing for 43 of those yards in the only Charlotte drive of the fourth quarter. This put Lemay at 280 rushing yards so far this season. Klugh rushed for a total of 21 yards, but it did not prove to be enough to get the Niners into the end zone for a score.

LeMay rushed for 27 yards in the fourth quarter and although Klugh rushed for 19 yards and passed for 28 yards, he accompanied these yards with seven incomplete passes in the quarter, in only two Charlotte drives.

Two holding penalties, one by Eugene German and another by Chris Brown, showed the 49ers’ frustration in the fourth quarter which were then followed by a couple more setbacks for Klugh and his team.

Klugh threw another interception into the end zone to end the first Niners drive of the fourth quarter. The interception was again caught by Bryan Willams who was quickly pushed into the back of the end zone out-of-bounds by T.L. Ford II. This play ended Charlotte’s longest possession of the game after seven minutes and thirty-five seconds.

In the next Charlotte drive, Klugh would throw another incomplete pass to Chris Montgomery with two 49ers penalties in the same play. After a three yard rush by Klugh and two passes for 13 yards, Panther Dontae Wilson sacked Klugh for a loss of eight yards. Georgia State scored their final touchdown on the following drive.

The winless 49ers will head to FIU (2-1) to play on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. Charlotte last faced FIU October 15th, 2016 at Jerry Richardson Stadium and fell to the Panthers 27-26.

49ers tie Phoenix in overtime

The two teams get into a scuffle,. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers (2-1-1) were unable to secure a win over Elon (3-0-2), finishing play with a 1-1 draw in double overtime.

A goal by Teddy Chaouche in the 32nd minute of play, through the effort of Joe Brito with a cross from inside the box to Daniel Bruce who then kicked the ball back up to the top of the box for Teddy Chaouche to send the ball into the back of the net in the upper left corner, gaining his first career goal with Charlotte.

“Teddy did very well. He’s growing from game to game, he brings a wonderful maturity and calmness to the team,”Chrlotte head coach Kevin Langan said.

In the 64th minute a yellow card was given to Elon’s Jonathan Coleby and in the 66th minute Elon added another yellow card by way of Nicholas O’Callaghan, greatly raising the intensity between the 49ers and Phoenix.

Within the 88th minute, Ronnie Mleczkovicz created a tied game, scoring a goal made off of a corner kick. Charlotte’s Marco Sunol-Rojas had almost secured a win over the Phoenix in the 96th minute of play, putting a ball right inside the goal, only to be called offsides therefore dismissing the 49er’s goal.

“We’re all very disappointed, because we let them get away from us there. But, we’ve got to look at the performance, the performance was very good and early on in the season you want to look at performances,” Langan said.

Overall, Charlotte outplayed Elon, with seventeen shots over Elon’s eight and thirteen corner kicks over their seven. After just the first forty-five minutes of play, the 49ers led in shots 11-1. Of the 49ers’ seventeen shots on goal, Ryan Spaulding led the team with four while Chaouche, Sunol-Rojas, Myles Brown and Callum Montgomery each contributed two shots, and Tommy Madden, Zhuvonte Wilson, Luke Johnson and Fernando Garcia all took a single shot.

The Charlotte 49ers will finish up this round of games at home on Sunday, Sept. 17 against Jacksonville at 7 p.m. at Transamerica Field.

Racing to the gold mine

Many students grow up having a dream school, and for Carson Poindexter of Huntersville, NC that school is UNC Charlotte. Carson, who graduated from Lake Norman Charter this past spring has always wanted to be a 49er and this fall he will finally get to be one.

When asked about his love for the University he quickly responds with a smile and explains that he is very interested in Charlotte’s engineering program, particularly in motorsports.

What is unique about Carson’s interest is the level he takes it to and how he shows his fandom for the Charlotte 49ers.

He chose to race the #49 car to show his love for the Niners in the Bojangles Summer Shootout races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This past Independence Day when fans were welcomed down onto the track to meet the drivers and get their autographs after the races, he was pleasantly surprised by the large number of fans who made a point to tell him how much they loved his 49ers themed car.

Poindexter began racing with a Summer Youth League at Victory Lane karting in Charlotte in 2012, eventually obtaining a championship win in the league and from then on, he raced with a Winter Youth league through VLK as well. He then began racing in the Bojangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway in his #49 car in 2014, tallying up five second-place finishes along with one fourth-place finish in the bandolero Beginner Bandits division.

Carson also began racing with Cram Racing Enterprises (CRE) in 2014. Cram Racing was started by Kevin Cram, a Nascar crew chief from 1998 to 2008, who then decided to focus on helping kids and their families pursue their racing desires.

In the 2015 Summer Shootout Carson moved up to the Legends Young Lions Division and ended his summer season with a third place points finish in that division.

He was racing bandoleros up until that year when he moved up to legends and then in 2016, when he moved up to the Semi Pro Division, he would then be racing a #49 legend for both the Summer Shootout races and the Winter Heats. Carson has since been racing in the Semi Pro Division at Charlotte Motor Speedway in his Charlotte themed #49 legends car.

The switch from bandoleros to legends was largely because he was simply getting older and needed to move on to a new division.

“Legends drive very different than bandos. In the legends you have to keep pushing on and off of the gas, and letting off the gas more often to turn. Bandos are more lightweight, they accelerate a little faster, so they were easier to drive than the legends,” Poindexter said.

Carson had quite impressive seasons when driving a bandolero in 2014 and then a legend in 2015, but his past two years in the Semi Pro Division have not been quite as noteworthy, with several finishes within the last five cars of seventeen to twenty-two cars in the first few races of the 2017 Summer Shootout season.

By the fourth round he was in fourteenth of twenty-six in points with 203 points, but in the final point standings of this summer season, he finished thirteenth of twenty-six with 299 points in the Semi-Pro Division.

Beside legends cars being more difficult to drive than bandoleros and this beingCarson’s third year in the new car, he largely attributes the change in success to his mindset.

“I lay down decent lap times alone, but during actual races I think I sort of anticipate the wrecks too much,” Poindexter said.

Although he knows it can be good to be cautious when racing and will certainly continue to do so, he does also hope to become a little more aggressive in the field.

Carson doesn’t have a Legends win under his belt yet, but he has been and intends to continue to improve and work hard to get one and maybe more.

Carson’s support of UNC Charlotte seems to be almost as great as his family’s support of him and his racing. His mother Selah and his sisters Kendall and Miranda spend their time in the pits with Carson and other team members of Cram Racing Enterprises (CRE), the team Carson is a part of, as well as in the pit suites watching Carson and other racers throughout the night. His father Kenneth certainly supports him in the same way, but through CRE their young drivers as well as some of the family members of the racers, including Kenneth are sure to pay attention to what those working on the vehicles are doing and learn as much as they can.

As he is now a Niner, it shouldn’t be too much longer before Carson strikes gold and wins a legends race.