HOOVER, A.L. - The Charlotte 49ers will play for the NCAA men's soccer national championship on Sunday night in Hoover, Alabama. The Niners will face state rival North Carolina in the final match of the College Cup at 4 p.m. EST. This is the first time in program history that Charlotte soccer has advanced to a national championship.
The 49ers beat Furman and UAB in the opening two rounds, before knocking off defending national champion Akron, no. 3 seed Connecticut, and most recently, no. 2 seed Creighton to advance to the championship. The Tar Heels are the no.1 overall seed in the tournament, and have advanced to the College Cup for the past four straight seasons.
Rookie Giuseppe Gentile leads the Niners' offense with 10 goals and two assists for 22 points on the year. The Charlotte native, who was recently recognized by College Soccer News as a Freshman All-American, is also tops on the team in shots (68) and game-winning goals (5).
Senior Evan James is second in Charlotte scoring with 17 points on five goals and a team-high seven assists. Junior Donnie Smith (5 goals, 3 assists) and sophomore Tyler Gibson (3 goals, 6 assists) are third and fourth, respectively, with 13 and 12 points. Jennings Rex and T.J. Beaulieu are also in double-figures in points. Rex has five goals and an assist on the season, while Beaulieu has three tallies and five helpers.
Redshirt sophomore Klay Davis backs the Niners in goal, along with defender Charles Rodriguez, who was recently named an NSCAA First Team All-American, Charlotte's first in soccer since 1991. Isaac Cowles, Thomas Allen, Aaron Weldon and Anthony Perez also anchor the Charlotte defense, which has allowed just 0.83 goals per game this season. Davis and the 49ers' defense have posted nine shutouts and limited 20 foes to a goal or less this season. In NCAA Tournament play, Charlotte has allowed a tourney-best three goals, while scoring a tournament-high eight.
Sunday's meeting will mark the 18th regular season matchup between Charlotte and North Carolina, with the Tar Heels holding a 14-3 advantage in the series. Oddly enough, the two teams met during Charlotte's first home game of the 2011 season, an exhibition match on Aug. 21st. That game was called due to weather in the 70th minute with UNC leading, 2-1.
Sunday's game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and is also available on ESPN3.com. Live stats through GameTracker can be accessed through the www.Charlotte49ers.com website. Additionally, the @Charlotte49ers and @49erGameday Twitter accounts will be updated periodically.