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Charlotte rallies, falls short in defeat to Fighting Camels

The Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team welcomed the Campbell Fighting Camels to Halton Arena Wednesday night. Campbell jumped out to a 17-5 early lead and never looked back as they went on to win 76-70 over the 49ers. Chris Clemons led the way for the Camels with 26 points on the night while Braxton Ogbueze led Charlotte with 24.

Charlotte struggled offensively to begin the game scoring only nine points through the first 10 minutes of play. Meanwhile Clemons couldn’t miss for the Camels as he had 13 points in the first half. Jon Davis was able to get something going for Charlotte as he took the ball to the hole on three straight possessions to cut the Campbell lead to ten.

At the end of the first half, he drove the lane again and was able to get the basket and the foul. He knocked down the free throw to cut the lead to 37-34 which would remain the score until halftime. Davis finished the first half with 13 and the game with a career high 19.

Curran Scott. Photo by Chris Crews
Curran Scott. Photo by Chris Crews

The second half was more of the same. Charlotte was unable to knock down shots and never tied or took the lead. Ogbueze hit four second half threes and was keeping Charlotte in the game almost single handedly for a stretch. After shutting Clemons down for the final minutes of the first half, Charlotte began letting him get some open looks in the second half. He matched his first half total of 13 to finish with 26 for the Camels. The 49ers cut the lead to one with 5:26 to play and Ridell Camidge had an open look from three that would have given the 49ers the lead but it rimmed out. Charlotte had the height advantage over the Fighting Camels but was unable to use it to their advantage. Campbell outscored Charlotte 36-30 in the paint and 12-11 on second chance points.

“My big guys are who I was disappointed in tonight,” said 49ers head coach Mark Price after the game.

“We needed them to play big and dominate inside, and they didn’t show up.”

Charlotte will now have a ten day break before their next game which could not come at a better time.

“It gives us a chance to hopefully regroup,” said Price. “It’s been a tough stretch coming into this game. We just got to continue to work hard and get better.”

Charlotte has only three more games before conference play begins, the next one coming at Appalachian State on Saturday December 19th. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Three things we learned from the 49ers double-digit victory over NC Central

The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team welcomed North Carolina Central University to Halton Arena Wednesday, Dec. 2. Behind stellar defense, Charlotte took a commanding 24-10 lead at the end of the first quarter en route to the 67-52 victory over the Eagles. This was the third consecutive win for Charlotte who will now head to Raleigh to take on N.C. State, Sunday, Dec. 6.

Charlotte doesn’t need the three

Despite shooting only fifteen percent from beyond the arc, the 49ers were able to shoot 48 percent overall. They found a way to create space leading to high percentage shots in the paint and in transition. Charlotte outscored the Eagles 46-30 in the paint and 16-6 in fast-break opportunities. The 49er guards, Laia Raventós and Ciara Gregory, did an excellent job of driving the lane and finding the open shooter and finished with eight of the team’s seventeen assists.

“I never told them to stop shooting the three,” said 49ers head coach Cara Consuegra after the game. “I just told them we needed to wait to shoot the three. When you’re not knocking them down, you’re better served to move the ball and find something easy.”

Charlotte will have to knock down more shots from deep to help open up the low post game to grab the win over the Wolfpack Sunday.

Ciara Gregory. Photo by Chris Crews
Ciara Gregory scoring from inside the arc. Photo by Chris Crews

 

Senior leadership

Alexis Alexander chipped in eleven points and five rebounds in only seventeen minutes of play. The Most Valuable Player from the Georgia State University Thanksgiving Classic has now scored double digits in four straight games for the 49ers. She is averaging fourteen points and seven rebounds a game so far this year and is crucial to the 49ers success this season. Her mid-range game and post moves can create matchup problems down the road and if she continues to produce at a high level. Though Charlotte is 5-2 right now, it’s not going to get any easier for them. The game against N.C. State begins the final four games of non-conference play that features match-ups against crosstown rival Davidson and SEC foe Missouri.

The 49ers are playing good basketball but there is still much room for improvement. If they continue to play good defense and can knock down a few more shots here and there, they will only get better.

Senior forward Alexis Alexander. Photo by Ben Coon
Senior forward Alexis Alexander. Photo by Ben Coon

The 49ers can protect the rim

Charlotte’s defense played extremely well against the Eagles forcing seventeen turnovers and blocking ten shots. Charlotte allowed nineteen offensive rebounds but only gave up ten second chance points. The Eagles were forced to use the majority of the shot clock on virtually every possession which led to poor shots and turnovers. The 49ers turned defense to offense scoring twenty-eight points off turnovers. Kenya Olley led the way with four blocked shots which tied her season high. Charlotte is allowing less than sixty-points per game over their three game win streak which makes it easier on an offense that can score the ball in many ways.

“We really challenge our players to be disciplined defensively,” said Consuegra.

The discipline showed tonight as the Eagles were held to only thirty-four percent from the floor.

Bronico’s late goal secures victory in NCAA tournament

Luke Waechter celebrates his opening goal with teammates. Photo by Chris Crews
Luke Waechter celebrates his opening goal with teammates. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers men’s soccer team welcomed the Radford Highlanders to Transamerica Field Thursday night for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Charlotte played aggressive defense from the start and held Radford to only six shots on their way to the 2-1 victory.

The game was back and forth for the majority of the first half as neither team was able to get much going. Both defenses chased down balls and forced bad passes. Charlotte held Radford to only one shot in the first half while recording six of their own. In the 42nd minute, the Highlanders committed a foul that set up a Brandt Bronico free kick from about forty yards out.

The junior captain lofted a pass into the box finding Luke Waechter who was able to smash it home for the 1-0 lead. The goal was Waechter’s first on the year.

“I actually overran it a little bit,” said Waechter. “Then saw it on my right side. And at that opportunity you’re not gonna hold anything back.”

That score would hold until the horn and the 49ers would take a lead into the locker room.

The Charlotte defense continued to play strong, but got a little too aggressive in the 60th minute as a foul inside the box would lead to a penalty kick for Radford. Highlander defenseman Jamie Summers was able to beat 49ers keeper Austin Pack for the tying score.

Brandt Bronico celebrates. Photo by Chris Crews
Brandt Bronico celebrates. Photo by Chris Crews

Charlotte was able to pick up some momentum later in the half. As the clocked ticked down, there was a sense that a goal was coming. Bronico was in the box when a shot was deflected off the crossbar right to his feet. With the keeper out of position, Bronico was able to easily find the back of the net for the goal. The goal was Bronico’s eighth of the year and gave the 49ers the 2-1 lead. In all, the 49ers fired off twelve shots in the match compared to Radford’s six.

Radford came into the match averaging seventeen shots a game, but the Charlotte defense stepped up with their backs against the wall.

Charlotte head coach Kevin Langan was pleased with his team’s effort after the win.

“For me, I’m really really proud of every one of the guys tonight. Great performance,” he said.

The attendance crowd was loud all night to rally on the 49ers and their support was much appreciated.

Kyle Parkers high-fives the student section postgame. Photo by Chris Crews
Kyle Parkers high-fives the student section postgame. Photo by Chris Crews

“A fan base like that is just extraordinary,” said Waechter. “It gets your adrenaline going and we can’t thank them enough for how much they support us,” he continued.

Charlotte will now head to Winston-Salem to take on the top seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the second round. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start Sunday afternoon.

Panthers defeat Packers, stay undefeated

The Carolina Panthers welcomed the Green Bay Packers to Bank of America Stadium Sunday afternoon for a matchup between the top two teams in the NFC. Despite a fourth quarter rally from the Packers, the Panthers were able to grab the 37-29 victory to improve to 8-0 on the year. Cam Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth to keep the Panthers undefeated.

Graham Gano got the game going with an early field goal to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers with an 11 play, 65-yard drive that ended in a one yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Richard Rodgers giving the Packers the 7-3 lead.
The second quarter was all Panthers as they rattled off twenty-four points in that quarter alone. Newton ran the ball into the end zone from one yard out to cap off an 80 yard drive. On the next Panther possession, he found Greg Olsen for the seven yard touchdown giving the Panthers a 17-7 lead. Gano would knock in another field goal on the next possession to extend the lead to 20-7. With less than a minute to play before halftime, Newton connected with Philly Brown for a 39-yard touchdown. The Panthers would take a big 27-7 lead into the locker room.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen falls to the turf after catching a touchdown pass. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen falls to the turf after catching a touchdown pass. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service

Rodgers and the Packers came out firing in the second half and scored a touchdown in the first minute of play to cut the lead to 27-14.

The Panthers countered with another Gano field goal to keep it a two possession game at 30-14.

In the fourth quarter of play, Newton and the Panthers did exactly what they needed to do, burn the clock and get some points. Newton found rookie Devin Funchess for a 14-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 37-14 lead with only nine minutes to play.
The Packers would not go down easy as they would score two late touchdowns to make it 37-29 with 3:43 left in the game. Rodgers would get the ball back and lead the Packers down the field in hopes of tying the game. However, the Panthers defense made a huge stop as Thomas Davis picked off Rodgers to seal the victory.

Carolina Panthers' Kony Ealy causes Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers  to fumble the ball. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service
Carolina Panthers’ Kony Ealy causes Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers to fumble the ball. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service

Newton finished the ball game completing fifty percent of his passes at 15-30 with 297 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Newton also ran for 57 yards on the day and a touchdown. Rodgers finished 25-48 for 369 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

The Panther defense had a big game with five sacks and the game clinching interception.

“You just can’t let up. Finishing is something we have to do a much better job of,” said the hero, Davis, after the game. “But at the end of the day we came up with the victory. That’s the most important thing.”

The Panthers have now won twelve straight regular season games dating back to last season. They are in control of their division and the NFC and will look to capture home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will head to Tennessee to play the 2-6 Titans who are yet to win a game at home this season. The game is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Gano seals Panthers victory in OT

Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano kicks the game-winning field goal to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service
Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano kicks the game-winning field goal to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service

The Carolina Panthers welcomed the Indianapolis Colts to Charlotte for a primetime matchup on Monday Night Football. The weather posed some issues for both teams as there were seven turnovers and a missed extra point from Panther kicker Graham Gano that allowed the Colts to force the game into overtime. Gano redeemed himself in OT by hitting the game winning fifty-two yard field goal which propelled the Panthers to 7-0 for the first time in franchise history.

Gano gave the Panthers (7-0) an early lead with a field goal that followed an Indianapolis turnover on their second snap. Both teams were playing with backup centers and the center to quarterback exchange had an adverse effect on both teams.

On the ensuing Colts (3-5) possession, Charles Tillman picked off Andrew Luck to give the Panthers the ball again. The drive would require conversions on third and long and two fourth down conversions but it ended in seven points behind a three yard touchdown run from Johnathon Stewart, giving the Panthers a 10-0 advantage.

Colts kicker, Adam Vinatieri, chipped in two field goals to cut the lead to 10-6, but Cam Newton and the Panthers would respond. After a solid punt return by Ted Ginn Jr. gave the Panthers the ball in solid field position, Newton found his favorite target Greg Olsen in the end zone for the touchdown and the 17-6 lead.

Kurt Coleman intercepted Luck to give the Panthers the ball again in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, Newton found Philly Brown for a touchdown. Gano missed the extra point to keep the lead at 23-6.

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service
Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service

Luck led the Colts on two touchdown drives late to cut the lead to 23-20. The first touchdown was to Andre Johnson and the second to tight end Coby Fleener. The Colts would then get the ball back on their own 40 with two minutes and no timeouts. They would drive all the way down to the four yard line before the Panthers defense would force a field goal which tied the game and sent it to overtime.

In overtime, Vinatieri knocked down a fifty yard field goal on the Colts first possession to give them a 26-23 lead, their first of the night. Gano would respond with a forty-two yarder of his own to tie the game back up. On the Colts next possession, Luck threw a pass over the middle of the field which was tipped by Roman Harper and picked off by Luke Kuechly. Newton and the offense were not able to move the ball much on their possession but they were able to get in range for Gano. He lined up from fifty-two yards out and buried it home to give the Panthers the huge 29-26 win.

The game was sloppy on both sides, but the resilient Panthers found a way to win yet again and are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFC.

“It wasn’t pretty. We know that,” said Newton after the game. “We know have to be better, but at the end of the day we’re one of the lucky few who can say we’re 7-0.”

“That’s who we are. That’s what we’ve been building toward,” Olsen said. “We didn’t play great. We’re not going to throw a parade, but we beat a good team that gave us their best shot in adverse conditions.”

The Panthers will remain in Charlotte next week as they welcome the Green Bay Packers for another huge matchup. The Packers are coming off their first loss of the year and will be looking to rebound. The Panthers defense will have to shut down Aaron Rodgers and the dynamic offense of the Packers to make it to 8-0. The game is this Sunday at 1 p.m. in Bank of America Stadium.

‘Dig Pink’ night hits record attendance

'Dig Pink' night hits record attendance. Photo by Ben Robson.
‘Dig Pink’ night hits record attendance. Photo by Ben Robson.

The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team welcomed the Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky to Halton Arena Friday night for the annual ‘Dig Pink’ match, which helps raise Breast Cancer Awareness. The Hilltoppers were able to come in and get a 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-21) sweep against the 49ers on the big night.

Charlotte (5-14) started strong scoring the first two points but it would be all Hilltoppers the rest of the way. The 49ers kept it close throughout the beginning of the set but WKU built a 17-12 lead forcing Charlotte head coach Karen Weatherington to call a timeout. Charlotte was within three at 20-17 but that would be as close as they would get as Western Kentucky went on to the 25-19 win in the first set.

In the second set, Charlotte came out firing on all cylinders. They jumped out to a 7-1 lead forcing WKU to call an early timeout. They then led 14-7 before Western Kentucky (20-2) started to make a comeback. The Hilltoppers cut the lead to 14-12 and Charlotte called a timeout of their own. Charlotte continued to lead until Western Kentucky tied things up at nineteen. The teams would then trade points until the score was 24-24. Western Kentucky then closed out the set with back-to-back points to grab the 26-24 victory.

The third set was back and forth all the way through. Charlotte led 6-5 before Western Kentucky rallied to take a 9-8 lead. The Hilltoppers then jumped out to a 16-12 lead, but Charlotte came back and tied things up at seventeen. Charlotte was within two at 22-20 but that would be as close as they would get as Western Kentucky would win the set 25-21 and the match 3-0.

The attack for Charlotte was well-balanced all night and saw eight players earn a kill. Sarah McDonald led the way with eight. Britney Leigh Held added four kills of her own and a team leading twenty-five assists.

Despite the sweep, Charlotte fought hard against the nationally ranked opponent. “I’m so proud of my group,” said Weatherington. “We really knew we were on the big stage tonight. They played really really well. When you come up against Top 25 opponents you got to show up to play and I thought we did that.”

Charlotte head coach Karen Weatherington. Photo by Ben Robson
Charlotte head coach Karen Weatherington. Photo by Ben Robson

The ‘Dig Pink’ event brought in a record crowd of 1,647 showing their support for the 49ers and raising Breast Cancer Awareness. “I really just thought our fan support was phenomenal,” said Weatherington. “That just sends a good feeling and lets our team know we are supported.”

Charlotte will now hit the road for a match against UTSA before returning home for two matches against Marshall and North Texas. The game in San Antonio is Wednesday night and is slated for a 7 p.m. start.


Photos by Benjamin Robson. 

49ers dominated by Owls, prepare for ‘Dig Pink’ night

The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team was on the road in Boca Raton, Fla. Sunday afternoon taking on the Owls from Florida Atlantic University. Charlotte fell behind early and was not able to bounce back as the Owls won in straight sets (25-22, 25-12, 25-23).

Charlotte (5-13, 2-5) went down 5-1 early in the first set but fought back and tied the game at five. The 49ers found themselves down 21-17 before rallying to tie the set at twenty-one. However, FAU would score four of the next five points to win the first match 25-22.

The second set was dominated by the Owls. Abreia Epps and Sarah McDonald cut the Florida Atlantic lead to 11-7 at one point but that was as close as the 49ers would get as FAU cruised to the 25-12 victory.

After the disappointment in the second set, it was crucial for the 49ers to come out aggressively in the third set. Charlotte led 22-19 late in the set, but could not stop the Owls’ offense. Four kills and an ace finished off the 49ers who have now been swept in consecutive matches.

McDonald led the Charlotte offense with nine kills while Britney Leigh Held in assists, with twenty-six, and digs, with fourteen.

Charlotte will return home for the annual ‘Dig Pink’ match Friday night. Their opponent is number twenty-two ranked Western Kentucky. The match is set for a 6 p.m. start.

Spike: The Abreia Epps Story

Charlotte 49er volleyball player, Abreia Epps, is emerging as a leader on the team with some impressive performances as of late. Despite the 5-11 record, the 49ers have managed to be competitive and are improving. The redshirt sophomore, Epps, won Conference-USA Player of the Week last week after leading the 49ers with twenty-one kills in a 3-1 win over UTEP in the first conference game of the year. The twenty-one kills were a new career high for Epps who has now led Charlotte in kills in sixth of the last eight contests and has had seven straight games with double-digits in that category.

Abreia Epps. Photo by Benjamin Robson.
Abreia Epps. Photo by Benjamin Robson.

The Columbia, S.C. native began playing the sport in eighth grade when she was recruited in P.E. by the assistant volleyball coach at her middle school. “I just started playing and ever since then it just clicked,” said Epps. Epps played for Blythewood High School and helped lead her team to a 14-1 record and a spot in the 4A playoffs.

Epps said she was drawn to Charlotte by the coaches who recruited her and the facilities. “The campus is beautiful,” she said. “It was just a great atmosphere to be around and I loved it,” she said of her official visit with then head coach Chris Redding.

Abreia Epps readies herself for the serve. Photo by Benjamin Robson
Abreia Epps readies herself for the serve. Photo by Benjamin Robson

Epps is now under the leadership of Karen Weatherington who is in her first year as the 49ers head coach. When asked about playing for coach Weatherington, Epps said she is much different than her previous coaches at Charlotte. “She is a hardcore, let’s go to work, let’s go to war kind of coach. We are definitely getting to learn her better and she is getting to learn us better.”

Epps credits her recent play to a change in her mindset before the games. Epps likes to enjoy some of her favorite artists Future and Drake before the games to get in the zone. She also takes time to go over the scouting report to get a better understanding of her opponent and lately it’s been paying dividends.

“It feels great,” Epps said of her recent C-USA POTW honor. “Just knowing that your hard work and all the work you put in in the preseason to day to day practice has paid off.” Epps is second on the team in kills behind senior, Sarah McDonald who has also played well all year for Charlotte.

“I definitely just want our team to just battle,” said Epps on moving forward this season. “A lot of teams underestimate us. We just have to get this mentality as a team.”

Abreia Epps. Photo by Benjamin Robson.
Abreia Epps. Photo by Benjamin Robson.

Charlotte has battled lately. They dropped their last two games but they were hard fought five set matches against Southern Miss and Rice who have each only lost once in conference play so far. C-USA is a very competitive conference and if Charlotte can fine tune a few more details they have a great chance to make a run down the stretch. Charlotte has 11 games remaining on the schedule, the first two being on the road at FIU and Florida Atlantic. Look for Epps and the 49ers to continue improving. The 49ers have only two seniors, which makes Epps one of thirteen players who will be returning next year. The future promises to be bright in Charlotte as Epps and the rest of the 49ers continue learning Weatherington’s system which has been successful at her former schools.

Quarterback roulette

The Charlotte 49ers football is coming off a hard fought home loss against Florida Atlantic University. 17,444 fans, the largest crowd ever at Jerry Richardson Stadium, battled the weather and cheered on the 49ers in their first ever home game in Conference-USA.

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Lee McNeill. NT file photo.

Down 10-7 in the fourth quarter, Charlotte had a chance to tie or take the lead. However, on fourth down, Lee McNeill threw his fourth interception of the game which was returned for a touchdown sealing the victory for FAU.

The defense gave the 49ers a chance who forced a team record seven turnovers on the day, including six interceptions. Charlotte’s quarterbacks struggled all night against the Owls. McNeill got the start and finished the game 11-31 for 89 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions. Matt Johnson threw three passes on the night, two of which were picked off.

The offensive line was out performed by the FAU defensive front who sacked McNeill five times on the night. Kalif Phillips ran the ball well for 165 yards, but he was the only player who could get much going for the 49ers.

Charlotte entered the season knowing they would face new challenges all year as they made the transition from FCS to FBS play. Matt Johnson had received the majority of the snaps at quarterback through the first two years of 49ers football but McNeill and Brooks Barden had also seen valuable minutes. Johnson was named the starter for the first game against Georgia State and led the 49ers to a 23-20 win in the Georgia Dome. Barden got the start in the second game against Presbyterian and led Charlotte to a 34-10 win at home. Johnson was then thrust back into the starting lineup in the first ever Conference USA game for Charlotte as they fell to Middle Tennessee 73-14. McNeill got his first start of the year against FAU.

Charlotte has failed to find much consistency from the quarterback position this year. Head coach Brad Lambert has already named McNeill the starter for Friday night’s game against Temple. Barden will be second string as Johnson suffered a concussion in the FAU game and will likely not play at all.

Temple has a solid front seven that will create havoc in the backfield if Charlotte’s offensive line is not prepared.

“That’s one thing we said moving into this league was the line of scrimmage was going to a lot different as we moved up,” said Lambert in Tuesday’s press conference. The pressure created by FAU was a big part of the six interceptions forced.

“Lee was playing good through the first quarter and I thought things were rocking along and then we started throwing pick. The biggest thing is don’t turn it over. We got to take care of the ball and give ourselves a chance,” remarked Lambert. FAU was only the second Conference USA team Charlotte has ever faced and despite the rain and turnovers still had a chance to win the ballgame late.

Brooks Barden. Photo by Chris Crews
Brooks Barden. Photo by Chris Crews

Temple is a much better opponent, but the 49ers can find a way to win if the defense continues to play well and the offense delivers a balanced attack. Charlotte enters the game with a minus nine turnover margin while Temple is plus three on the year.

Look for Charlotte to establish the run game behind Phillips to make the third down passes for McNeill a little easier. If the offensive line can handle the aggressive Owls’ defense, McNeill has proved in the past that he is an accurate passer. Lambert is confident in all three of his quarterbacks and will not hesitate to play Barden if McNeill is not producing.

This will mark the first ever Friday night game for the 49ers who will be up against one of the best teams they have faced in their short three year history. To get a win, McNeill will have to get the ball in the end zone, something Charlotte quarterbacks have failed to do in the last two games. Maintaining possession will also be a key to success for the 49ers. Charlotte has proved its defense can play with the big boys as they lead Conference USA in total defense, sacks, third down defense, and first downs allowed. Kalif Phillips has also had success so far in Conference-USA averaging 122 yards on the ground through two games.

The pressure will fall on McNeill to make good decisions and try to avoid sacks. If Charlotte gets a solid outing from the redshirt junior from Indian Trail, they have a good chance at grabbing the upset.

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

Charlotte unable to top Golden Eagles

The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team was back in the Carolinas, Tuesday night in a match against Winthrop. This was the third match in a three game road stretch for the 49ers who are coming off a 3-1 win at UAB. Charlotte put up a strong effort but the Golden Eagles were able to grab the win in straight sets (25-23, 25-23, 27-25).

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Abreia Epps. Photo by Benjamin Robson.

Charlotte (5-9) came out strong in the first set and led most of the way. The 49ers were up 22-20 when Winthrop was able to score three straight points and take the lead. Abreia Epps tied the match but the 49ers gave up a kill and an ace to end it.
The 49ers and Eagles remained close to start the second set. Sarah McDonald and Anna Henderson scored back to back kills to tie the match at six. The 49ers had the score within one point twice at 15-14 and 23-22 but could not take control.

Winthrop was eyeing a sweep in the third and jumped out to a solid 17-12 lead. However, the 49ers would fight until the end. Charlotte went on a four point rally to tie the set at 23-23. Down 24-23, Epps hammered home two kills in a row to give Charlotte set point. The Eagles then scored three straight on two kills and a match ending ace.

Epps, reigning Conference-USA Player of the Week, led the 49ers in kills for the fifth time this season with fifteen. Semen Sen, McDonald and Henderson each added six of their own. Britney Held led Charlotte in assists with thirty-two, as well as digs with eleven.

This was the final non-conference matchup for Charlotte who is already 2-1 in Conference USA action. The 49ers will return to Halton Arena to take on Southern Miss this Thursday. The match is slated for a 6 p.m. start.

Panthers survive Saints’ late push

The Carolina Panthers welcomed NFC South foe, the New Orleans Saints, to the Queen City for a matchup between two injury ridden rivals. Both teams were missing a few key players which made for an exciting matchup. Cam Newton was 20-31 for 312 yards and two touchdowns to his favorite receiver Greg Olsen. He also ran for a third touchdown as the Panthers went on to capture a 27-22 victory.

Luke McCown had his first start since 2011 as Saints quarterback Drew Brees was sidelined with a rotator cuff injury. McCown played exceptionally well thanks in part to the gameplan by Saints head coach Sean Payton. The Saints offensive line gave McCown good protection allowing him to find the open man. Most of his throws were short crossing routes which made it relatively easy for him to start the game 5-5 and drive the Saints into the red zone. However, the Panthers defense made a stand and forced a field goal to keep the game at 3-0.

The Panthers offense came out a little stagnant and was forced to punt on their first drive putting the ball back into the hands of McCown and the Saints offense. Starting from their own six yard line, the Saints marched down the field and a five yard Mark Ingram touchdown run capped off the ninety-four yard scoring drive, giving the Saints the 10-0 lead.

Cam Newton was able to get it going on the following drive for the Panthers. Despite a couple offensive penalties, the Panthers kept driving down field and Newton was able to find Olsen in the end zone for six. After the PAT by Graham Gano the Saints lead had dwindled to 10-7.

The Saints were unable to do anything and had to punt back to the Panthers. Cam led the offense back down the field and got the ball into the red zone for the second time on the day but the Saints defense stopped any further progress. Gano came onto the field and knocked down the field goal to tie the game right before half time.

Carolina started the second half with the ball but were forced to punt on their first drive. Marcus Murphy of the Saints fielded the punt and returned it seventy-four yards to the house for a touchdown. The Saints bobbled the snap on the extra point leaving the score at 16-10.

The Panthers responded yet again as Newton found Olsen for the second time on the day in the end zone to take their first lead of the ball game at 17-16. Gano would add a field goal on the next drive to extend the lead to 20-16.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen catches a pass from quarterback Cam Newton one-handed as New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro applies pressure during second quarter action on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
Greg Olsen snags a Cam Newton pass one-handed. Photo courtesy Tribune News Service.

In the fourth quarter, Newton led the Panthers on an eighty-eight yard drive that took four minutes off the clock ending in a thirteen yard touchdown run by Superman extending the lead to 27-16.

McCown would not go down without a fight however. He strung together a ten play, eighty yard drive that was capped off by a Khiry Robinson touchdown run that got the Saints within five at 27-22. They elected to go for two in an attempt to get the game within a field goal’s reach but McCown’s pass fell incomplete.

Carolina would hold on and pick up the huge divisional win. McCown finished the game 31-38 for 310 yards but had zero touchdowns and an interception. Despite the impressive performance from the backup, it was not enough and the Saints fell to 0-3.

The Panthers had over four hundred yards of total offense and are 3-0 for the first time in over a decade. They will now hit the road and head to Tampa Bay for another divisional game against the 1-2 Buccaneers and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.

Charlotte downs UTEP in four sets

49ers Volleyball. Photo by Makeedah Baker.
49ers Volleyball. Photo by Makeedah Baker.

The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team welcomed the Miners from the University of Texas at El Paso to Halton Arena Monday night for the first game of Conference-USA action.

The 49ers ended non-conference play on a three game losing streak and were looking to start the conference season on a positive note. Led by Abreia Epps, Charlotte grabbed the win 3-1 by scores of 25-11, 22-25, 28-26, 25-21.

Charlotte (4-7, 1-0) jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the first set and forced UTEP to call a timeout. After a couple of blocks on defense and aces on offense the 49ers led 17-6. Charlotte went on to win the set 25-11 thanks to five team blocks and some miscommunication from the Miners.

The 49ers came out a little flat in the second set but managed to stay in the game. UTEP (6-9, 0-1) tied the game at 5-5 before Charlotte would score four straight giving them a 9-5 advantage. The game would go back and forth, but Charlotte was unable to hold off the Miners. The 49ers tied the set at 21-21 before giving up back to back points giving UTEP the lead. Charlotte would fall 25-22 following an ace from Lindsey Larson of the Miners.

The third set was also a very close contest. Neither team was able to get more than a point or two ahead before the other would rally and the score remained even for much of the set. Abreia Epps was able to keep the 49ers within reach posting ten kills in the third. Down 24-23 she would hammer home back to back kills to put Charlotte out in front. The 49ers would go on to grab the 28-26 win and keep from going down two sets to one.

In the fourth set Charlotte would come out firing on all cylinders. The 49ers built a 22-12 lead before they would let UTEP rally and cut the lead to 23-20. Epps added seven more kills and finished with a new career high of twenty-one as the 49ers went on to win 25-21. Sarah McDonald added fifteen kills of her own and Kaylyn Torain tallied nine. Britney Leigh Held had seven kills and forty-nine assists leading the 49ers in that category. Charlotte finished the night with nine team blocks thanks to solid play from the front line.

The win for the 49ers was the first win in the conference opener since 2004. “Once you get into conference, everybody is 0-0,” said first year Head Coach Karen Weatherington. “Coming back in that third set and fighting till the end is what makes the difference. We were just really happy to get the win.”

Charlotte will now head to Marshall, Friday night to kick off a three game road trip. The 49ers will look to improve to 2-0 in Conference-USA. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. start.

49ers sweep Liberty

The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team was looking to bounce back from a three match losing streak Friday night against Liberty. It would only take three sets as the 49ers swept Liberty to get back in the win column.

Charlotte (3-4) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set and would not look back. Liberty cut the lead to 14-11 but the 49ers capped off the set on an 11-2 run. Sarah McDonald led the attack for Charlotte with thirteen kills on the night and closed out the first set with a kill-ace combo to cap off the 25-13 win.

Liberty (4-3) was able to remain competitive throughout the second set tying it at 5-5 and 12-12 but the 49ers pulled away late. Charlotte was up 21-16 and forced the Flames to use a timeout. However, the 49ers would maintain the five point edge as they went on the win the second set 25-20.

Sarah Adams and Kaylyn Torain helped the 49ers jump out to an early in the third set. Morgan Barker had back-to-back aces to give Charlotte a 10-6 advantage. Semen Sen and McDonald would account for seven of the final twelve kills for Charlotte on the way to the 25-20 victory in the third set and the first win of the weekend at the Appalachian Invitational in Boone. Sen also had double-digit kills with ten while Adams and Torain finished the match with nine a piece. Shelby Green had fifteen digs on the night to lead the defense.

“Today’s win over Liberty was an indication of the work ethic of Niner Volleyball,” said 49er Head Coach Karen Weatherington following the match. “We have been training to be aggressive as well as fundamentally sound. Last weekend tested our resolve and the players really bought an intensity to practice this week. It showed today!”

Charlotte will look to keep up the momentum as they have two matches slated for Saturday. The first is at 10 a.m. against Missouri followed by a 7 p.m. matchup against tournament host Appalachian State.

Looking ahead to Charlotte’s home opener against Presbyterian

The Charlotte 49er football team kicked off their first season of FBS play with a big 23-20 win over Georgia State in the Georgia Dome this past Friday. Now Charlotte looks to bring that momentum back to the Queen City as they set their sights on the Presbyterian Blue Hose. The 49ers defeated Presbyterian 45-21 two years ago in their inaugural season and will look to repeat that performance.

The 49er defense came out of the gate firing on all cylinders against Georgia State. Nick Cook forced a fumble on the fourth play of the game that was picked up and returned for a touchdown by Terrance Winchester. The 43 yard fumble return will go down as the first touchdown in 49er history as part of the FBS. The defense forced three turnovers in all on the day. Charlotte was able to tally four sacks and held the Panthers to under one hundred yards on the ground. Georgia State was able to put up 392 yards against the 49ers including a late 53 yard touchdown pass that made the game a little more interesting. Fortunately the onside kick went out of bounds and the 49ers were able to seal the victory.
The Charlotte offense had 408 yards of total offense against Georgia State despite turning the ball over five times.

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Matt Johnson throws to the outside. Photo by Ben Robson.

Matt Johnson was 19-32 for 244 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. The biggest play was a 63 yard bomb from Johnson to Austin Duke just before halftime which gave Charlotte a 20-3 lead heading to the locker room. Charlotte was unable to do much in the second half as a Blake Brewer field goal accounted for the only points in the final thirty minutes. The 49ers turned it over twice and punted four times which kept Georgia State alive.

Charlotte will have a lot to work on in the week leading up to their matchup against the Blue Hose, but it helps to start the season 1-0. Presbyterian was 6-5 last season even though they were outgained and outscored by their opponents. The Blue Hose played some tough competition last year facing Ole Miss, NC State, and Northern Illinois. Presbyterian returns fifteen starters from last year’s campaign, nine of which are on defense, giving them a good bit of experience. The Blue Hose were second in red zone defense last year among all FCS programs which could prove troublesome for the 49ers who struggled in that area against Georgia State.

Presbyterian faced Miami University (Ohio) and fell to the Red Hawks 26-7 in their season opener. While Charlotte struggled to score down the stretch, Presbyterian gave up two fourth quarter touchdowns which left them no chance of coming back.

Some keys to victory for the 49ers will be maintaining possession, better red zone efficiency, and doing a better job of finishing. The 49ers cannot turn the ball over five times and expect the same result they got against Georgia State. They also were only 11-21 on third down conversions, a stat which has to be improved upon. Charlotte entered the red zone four times, but walked away with field goals on two of those chances and turned the ball over on the other two. They will have to get the ball in the end zone to make it to 2-0 on the year. Charlotte had three turnovers in the first half but was able to build a 20-3 lead. In the second half, Georgia State was able to inch their way back into the game outscoring the 49ers 17-3.

With the excitement of the first game behind them, Charlotte can now focus on the season ahead. The 49er coaching staff will review the game film and solve some of the issues experienced in the first game. Look for Johnson to be more comfortable in the backfield, and the rest of the 49er offense to be more efficient. The 49ers are a much better team in front of the home crowd and Jerry Richardson Stadium will be packed for the first home game of FBS football in Charlotte.