|Charlotte opens Conference USA slate with shutout|
MIAMI – Charlotte women’s soccer knocked in a goal in each half and played solid defense throughout to pick up a 2-0 victory at FIU Friday night in the Conference USA opener for both programs. The shutout is the 49ers’ fifth on the campaign and it marks the fourth time in head coach John Cullen’s five seasons in which the team has begun conference play with a win.
Charlotte (6-3, 1-0 C-USA) got on the board first at 29:18 when Maddie Kiebel tallied her first goal of the year on a Perri Bonner assist. Kiebel’s shot came from 12 yards out and was aimed at the left post.
The Niners had to make a goalie change just nine minutes in, as Annika McHenry came on in relief of starter Alex Kubrick. McHenry stood tall during a two-minute span in the 22nd and 23rd minutes, turning away one Panthers header from Caroline Hernandez and helping guide her defense through three corner kick situations, all taken by Madlen Weinhardt, in the flurry in front of the Charlotte cage.
The 49ers capitalized on the missed FIU (2-7, 0-1 C-USA) opportunity by ripping off back-to-back shots themselves before Kiebel found the net for the game’s first score. Kiebel had the first attempt of the three-shot scenario. The host Panthers put together another solid offensive attack later in the frame two shots and two corner kicks, but again, the Charlotte defense would not break.
The early stages of the second half featured the Niners on the offensive push, as they strung together a corner kick by Nicole Anderson, resulting in a Taylor Dulaney shot blocked. Kiebel then stepped to the corner and placed her swing pass into the 18-yard box. A loose ball found the feet of Bonner, who beat FIU goalkeeper Paula Zuluaga to the far post at 53:37 to increase the margin to a pair.
Both teams traded chances down the stretch but McHenry and the 49ers preserved the clean sheet to earn their second triumph in the last three matches.
Charlotte returns to action at 2 p.m. Sunday when it comes back to the Tar Heel state and faces East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. The Pirates opened their league calendar Friday with a 1-0 setback to preseason favorite Colorado College.