|Charlotte 49ers top Georgia State in NCAA tournament opener|
|3-0 result in penalty kicks after double overtime|
|Published Thursday, November 15, 2018 11:00 pm|
The Charlotte 49ers live to see another game of knockout soccer.
The Conference USA tournament runner-up has a date in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, as the 12th seeded Hokies (10-6-3) had a first-round bye.
Charlotte (15-4-1) knocked out Georgia State (11-7-2) 3-0 on penalties after deadlocking 2-all at the end of double overtime. Senior defender Callum Montgomery converted the first penalty kick, followed by junior striker Maclean Holbrook and senior midfielder Tommy Madden. Georgia State’s first penalty hit the post, but did not put another attempt on target.
“We spent a few weeks getting ready for this type of soccer, because in the regular season, there’s no PKs, but in knockout soccer, you win or go home,” Madden said. “You’ve got to find a way to win it. I don’t think any of us were nervous. We just went straight to our routine, and kind of showed just how confident we were.”
Madden missed a penalty in Charlotte’s penultimate game of the regular season against Florida Atlantic, but coolly converted the spot kick against Georgia State.
“No flashbacks,” he said.
Said Montgomery: “There was definitely a calmness from the group as soon as we knew it was going to PKs.”
Charlotte striker Daniel Bruce, who scored a goal and had an assist, earned two yellow cards and a subsequent red, leaving the 49ers down a man for the final 18 minutes of regulation as well as 20 minutes of overtime.
“This is a fit group,” coach Kevin Langan said. “We could probably play every second day if we had to. No worries there. We’ll patch up and see who is healthy. We’ll spend two days getting ready. We can’t wait for Sunday.”
Bruce’s ejection eliminates him from the next round. If the 49ers advance to face the winner of James Madison and North Carolina in the third round, he will be eligible for that game. His absence leaves Charlotte without their leading scorer; six goals and five assists on the season.
“Next man steps up,” Langan said. “That’s why we have 27 on the squad, not just the team of 11. Daniel will miss Sunday. That gives Preston [Popp], Maclean, Luke Vallone, maybe Tommy playing up front a little bit. It’s just the next man up. Go on and do your role.”
Under Langan, Charlotte has not advanced past the second round of the tournament, despite taking them there six of his seven seasons with the program. Their last appearance in the tournament was in 2016 against the Hokies in the second round. Montgomery played a crucial part in that season’s success, but now the senior defender has a different perspective.
“Every year, teams change,” Montgomery said. “This group, compared to that group, there are some similarities, but we are a lot different, and we are unique in our own way. It’s really exciting going into Sunday. This has been a goal of ours all season. We want to keep playing as many games as we can. All eyes on the Hokies.”
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