|Thomas, McHenry key season-opening win Friday|
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Preseason Conference USA women’s soccer favorites, the Charlotte 49ers, earned a 1-0 triumph at in-state foe UNC Greensboro Friday night in the season-opening match for both squads. The Niners edge ahead in the all-time series, 4-3, with the win, their fifth in six tries to begin a season under head coach John Cullen.
Freshman Martha Thomas shined in her collegiate debut, not only leading Charlotte (1-0) and all players with five shots, she tallied the game’s only goal late in regulation. The Weston, Fla., product sprinted down the left side, only to be clipped from behind to draw a yellow card on a Spartans defender.
After the ensuing free kick was redirected, the 49ers maintained the pressure on UNCG’s end with the ball eventually landing at the feet of sophomore Rebecca Beatty. Beatty then located Thomas, who ripped her shot from 15 yards out past Spartans goalkeeper Chloe Buehler for the decisive score at 80:11, just 27 seconds after the caution was issued.
It also marked the first assist of Beatty’s career after she finished her freshman campaign in 2013 with one goal, also in game-winning fashion, in the Conference USA opener against UTSA Oct. 4.
The Niners found themselves trailing in the shot column at the intermission but flipped the script during the second 45 minutes, controlling much of the action and holding a 7-2 advantage on attempts after the break.
Standing firm was redshirt junior goalkeeper Annika McHenry, anchoring the defensive unit with four saves to pick up her fourth career shutout. She moves into a 10th-place tie in the school’s record book with Kelly Sweetingham (1998-99) and Juli Black (2005-06, ’08) with her four clean sheets.
Charlotte had a chance with just over the 32-minute mark of the opening frame when a loose ball was bobbled by Buehler near the right post before she clenched it tightly. Preseason All-Conference USA honoree Amanda Jones also had an opportunity with 27 minutes remaining, breaking free down the left side before sending her shot just to the outside of the right post.
UNC Greensboro (0-1) was not without chances itself, as Chesney White created a couple dangerous ones on her own among her team-best four attempts. At the 17:40 mark, she found herself free of a 49ers defender, but after the pass came from the right side back across the goal mouth, her shot ricocheted off the left post.
White then intercepted an errant pass along the Charlotte backline, leading to a 2-on-1 opportunity, but she blasted her shot high and forced McHenry into a leaping save, punching the ball over the crossbar and keeping the hosts out of the net.
The 49ers return to action in one week, traveling to Conway, S.C., to face Coastal Carolina in a 7 p.m. Friday contest. It will mark the second of a season-opening five-match road swing for Charlotte, who will not make its Transamerica Field season debut until welcoming Winthrop to town Sept. 17.