|Division champs! Charlotte grabs C-USA East crown|
NORFOLK, Va. – Two second-half goals provided the cushion it needed, as the Charlotte women’s soccer team captured the Conference USA East Division title in its first season back in the league following Thursday’s 3-1 victory at Old Dominion in the regular-season finale. The 49ers will be No. 1 coming out of the East Division at next week’s Conference USA Championships in Houston.
A second-half team all season proved no different in the clinching spirit Thursday, as a tied match at the half went the Niners’ way with two more goals during the second 45 minutes. Charlotte (10-6-2, 5-3-2 C-USA) also reached the 10-win mark with its overall record, attaining the plateau for the second-straight year and fourth time in head coach John Cullen’s five seasons.
As much as the 49ers have enjoyed scoring in the second half, it was an early first-half score that put Charlotte ahead, 1-0. Sophomore Perri Bonner found the back of the net just 47 seconds into the match, the fifth-fastest score in program history, after receiving a Maddie Kiebel assist down the right side before redirecting it past Lady Monarchs goalkeeper Meredith Lenox for her third goal.
The lead, however, was short lived as Old Dominion (1-13-3, 1-7-2 C-USA) countered at 8:20 when Jessie Klamut touched a pass to Meghan Cozans, who placed it into the left-side netting to force a 1-1 tie.
Despite holding a 7-to-3 shot advantage and 5-to-0 corner kick edge, the Niners could not register the go-ahead goal before the half concluded.
Charlotte then turned on its second-half magic once again, a ledger that had seen it outscore its opponents 18-to-5 entering Thursday’s action. It now is a full 4-to-1 margin (20-to-5) thanks to two more second-half goals.
The Lady Monarchs opened the period with the bulk of the offensive threats, tallying three shots and two corner kicks within the first seven minutes. The 49ers did not waver, though, and on their first attempt of the second half penetrated the back of the net. Sara Trexler ripped a shot from 25 yards out along the left side, curving it past Erin Kinz, who entered as the netminder at the intermission, at 52:11 to put Charlotte back ahead, 2-1.
With Lenox quickly inserted back into the ODU lineup, it would be the next Niners shot that pushed the lead to 3-1. Amanda Jones tallied her team-leading eighth score at 58:59 when she fired home her attempt from 36 yards away on the unassisted goal to decide the final outcome. Her eight goals establish a new career high for the junior.
The two teams would trade offensive runs the remainder of the match but neither squad found the back of the net in the first meeting between the programs.
Charlotte ends the Conference USA regular season with 17 points, edging East Carolina (16 points) for the division crown. FIU finishes third in the eight-team race with 15 points, while UAB and Marshall each collected 14 points to set the stage in the upcoming championships. UAB holds the tiebreaker over Marshall, making it the No. 4 seed out of the East.
The 49ers are slated to play Wednesday the victor of Monday’s opening-round contest between No. 5 seed Marshall and the host Rice Owls, the No. 4 seed out of the West Division. The time for the matchup and more details will be announced at later date at the Rice Soccer Stadium in Houston.