|Charlotte 49ers aim to run table at C-USA women's soccer|
|Goal is to return to tourney final, NCAA|
|Published Friday, August 9, 2019 2:50 pm|
|PHOTO | SAM ROBERTS|
|The Charlotte 49ers look to advance to the Conference USA women's soccer tournament in 2019 after missing out in 2018.|
Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer needs to get back to postseason play.
They missed out on the Conference USA tournament last season, but not unfamiliar with success. The 49ers hosted and won the tournament in 2016, eventually losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Duke to finish 11-9-2. They made it to the conference final again in 2017, where they lost on penalties to North Texas to finish 11-8-2.
However, last season’s four-win conference campaign was not enough to make postseason play at 8-9 overall.
The biggest difference came in the attacking third. Last season, Charlotte scored 23 goals while conceding 22. In 2017, the 49ers scored 36 goals and allowed 24. In 2016, they scored 42 goals, while allowing 34. Charlotte also played its first campaign without prolific striker Martha Thomas, who recently signed with West Ham United’s women’s side in England. She left Charlotte with a school-record 47 goals and 26 assists.
Filling that gap in the attacking third is senior striker Megan Greene, who led the 49ers with eight goals and five assists last season. She has 28 career goals and 17 assists. Equally important is senior defender Riley Orr, who produced five assists in 2018.
“They’ve been the all-conference level players year in and year out,” Cullen said. “When you’re scouting for Charlotte, you’ve got to scout for Riley Orr’s ability to come forward. You’ve got to scout for Megan Greene’s presence around the box. They’re winners. They train hard. I know the team looks up to themselves to the way they compose themselves and how competitive they are. I’m looking forward to them being themselves, though. I don’t want them to burden themselves with doing more—doing something different. What’s got them to this level and the recognition is their ability to be consistent. I know how important this last year is for them and their fellow seniors.”
Said Greene: “Over the past three years, we’ve gotten a little bit of everything. We won it, got to the final, then didn’t even make it [to the tournament]. This year, we’re just going to work harder than we have to make sure that we’re consistent the entire season rather than just for the first four games.”
Charlotte’s eight-player senior class is complemented by a seven-player freshmen class.
“We’ve watched this freshmen group now for two, three seasons,” Cullen said. “A lot of them are local players. I’ve had the chance to know them since they were 13-14 years of age. A lot of them have come to previous ID camps—I’ve got to see them train up close. I’ve got to coach a few of them in years past at the club level.”
Cullen noted the expectation for the newcomers to compete immediately based on their 24-player roster.
“Brenna [Murray] is a goalkeeper, so we’re probably not going to rotate three, but she’s come in, and she looks like she can challenge to be at this level,” Cullen said. “The six outfield players will see minutes. With a smaller squad in terms of numbers, those freshmen have to be ready to step on the field, just like these seniors did when they first arrived.”
Charlotte plays road exhibitions at UNC Greensboro on Aug.11 and High Point on Aug. 16. Their first two regular season games are on the road: Aug. 23 at Akron and Aug. 30 at Longwood. They open at home on Sept. 1 against Wake Forest at 6 p.m. Conference play takes place at North Texas in Denton Nov. 6-10.
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