Charlotte, N.C.- The 13th seeded Charlotte 49ers search for its ninth straight victory came up short with a 1-0 loss to Coastal Carolina on Sunday night.
The pitch was hard from the falling temperatures being 37 degrees at first touch. For both teams the win would mean warmer weather heading to California to face the Golden Bears after California defeated Bradley 3-1 earlier in the day.
It took Coastal Carolina 4:14 into the match to find the back of the net off the foot of Ricky Garbanzo for his 13th goal of the season. Simon Laugsand contributed the assist. Laugsand delivered the ball into the box off a Chanticleer throw in before receiving the pass back to him. Laugsand crossed the ball into the box and off the keeper’s hands. The deflection fell at Garbanzo’s feet and put it cross net and into the far post for an early 1-0 lead. Coastal Carolina took eight shots with three on target. That was all they needed to seal the deal and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.
“With the early goal and the tactics (Coastal) came to play, it was a frustrating game for us to play. I feel devastated for the seniors; this was a team that we could have kept going with. I couldn’t have been prouder of them and couldn’t have asked any more of them,” said Coach Kevin Langan
The match was physical on both sides racking up fouls. Coastal Carolina finished with 20 fouls while Charlotte had 13. Early in the first half Gentile found a seam in the defensive wall of the Chanticleers but was fouled just outside the box for a free kick. Gentile sent a low line drive towards the cage but the Chanticleer keeper denied the attempt. “We always feel that one is going to break, we just didn’t get any chances to drop for us,” said Tyler Gibson.
Niner Nation and the Queen City Army came to life in the second half to help rally the troops but the 49ers could not find the strength to break through the tough Chanticleer’s defensive unit. Charlotte could not find its rhythm as the 49ers finished with three shots on goal and 12 shots in the match. The 49ers came out in the second half trailing 1-0 looking for the equalizer. “The fan support has been unbelievable all year. It really drives you forward when you hear them on the pitch singing and chanting. Even when we are down, they give us the belief that we can go and score,” said Aidan Kirkbride.
Senior midfielder Aidan Kirkbride sent a shot from the top of the box a bit wide right for the best look of the night in the 59th minute. Giuseppe Gentile sent a ball towards the Chanticleer cage but punched out by Coastal’s Devin Cook. Gentile finished the match with three shots and one being on frame. Kirkbride led the 49ers with four shots.
“Despite the loss tonight, this has been another successful season,” said Langan.
The loss tonight ends the season for seven seniors: Klay Davis, Thomas Allen, Aidan Kirkbride, Tyler Gibson, Will Mayhew, Anthony Perez and Chase Johnston. “For this class, this group of seniors has been in the tournament four of the last five years and three consecutively. This program has never had this much success. It comes down to these guys working hard at training. They have defined what it means to be a Charlotte soccer player.”