WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – It may not have been the result desired, but the dawn of a new season still provided positive moments and opportunities for the Charlotte women’s soccer program Tuesday night. The 49ers, preseason favorites in the Conference USA race, fell 2-0 to No. 21-ranked Wake Forest in the exhibition opener for both teams at the Demon Deacons’ Spry Stadium.
“Tonight was another important step in the building block of our preseason preparations,” head coach John Cullen said. “It was an opportunity to play a quality team in Wake Forest and really ramp up the intensity levels.
“Overall, I am very pleased with the way we played the game and the fact that we were able to get 23 players some minutes in the first college game of the season. Both teams created numerous chances so we’ll have to continue to tighten in back and be a bit more clinical in front of the goal. But there were lots and lots of encouraging signs on which to build only five days into preseason.”
Charlotte had its chances, placing 13 shots offensively towards the Wake Forest goal, but the frame itself prevented the ball from crossing the line on a couple occasions. In the 29th minute, sophomore Perri Bonner fired an attempt which nicked off the post, while freshman Cannon Clough nearly created the Niners’ first goal in the 42nd minute with a shot off the crossbar.
The 49ers controlled much of the attack early and trailed just 1-0 at the intermission and 8-7 in the shots category. Wake Forest used a through ball by Kendall Fischlein to Pilar Torres to claim the edge at the break with a goal at the 18:35 mark.
Though the shot discrepancy was slightly greater in the second stanza, nine-to-six in favor of the hosts, Charlotte continued to push forward and create chances. Preseason All-Conference USA honoree Amanda Jones had back-to-back attempts with just over 10 minutes left in regulation and her classmate, Sara Trexler, placed a shot towards the Deacon cage with under 60 seconds remaining only to be blocked by the defense.
The Demon Deacons increased their advantage to a pair at 55:55 when Fischlein dribbled through the 49ers defense and beat goalkeeper Annika McHenry to make it 2-0. Taylor Waters was credited with the assist after a long through ball set up her teammate.
Despite the difference in scoring, Charlotte forced netminder Lindsay Preston into five saves, one more stop than McHenry collected.
Jones led the Niners with four shots, edging out freshman Martha Thomas by one.
Fischlein finished with a game-best six attempts, putting two on goal including her score. Sarah Teegarden was next on the home squad with three shots.
Cullen substituted freely throughout the contest, using 12 additional field players to give his squad multiple looks and formations. Among the players who saw action were freshmen Thomas, Clough, Allye Reynolds, Shea Dwyer, Virginia Lingo, Justine Lockman and Kyla Clark, who all stepped onto the collegiate field for the first time.
Charlotte will have another chance to pick up a victory in the preseason, as it closes the exhibition slate with a 6 p.m. Saturday match in Boiling Springs against Gardner-Webb. The 49ers will then open the regular season Aug. 22 in Greensboro against UNCG.