|49ers top Mercer to advance in NCAA tournament|
|3-1 win earns Charlotte trip to Clemson|
|Published Friday, November 22, 2019 9:07 am|
|PHOTO | LEROY HARDEN|
|The Charlotte 49ers advanced to the second round of the NCAA soccer tournament with a 3-1 win Thursday against Mercer. Charlotte plays at Clemson Sunday.|
The best in the nation are the only opponents left for the Charlotte 49ers.
A 3-1 first-round NCAA tournament victory against Mercer (14-7) sends the 49ers (12-3-4) to No. 2 Clemson (16-2-1) on Nov. 24. The winner plays the winner of No. 15 Penn State (12-3-3) vs. Providence (15-6).
“This team is battle-hardened,” coach Kevin Langan said. “It’s ready. These are fit, strong boys. They’ll be fine by Sunday.”
Charlotte went down 1-0 early when Mercer junior midfielder Joshua Harrison scored. However, junior defender Luke Johnson sent a ball in from the left side, which hit the far post and pinged into the back of the net.
“I saw the keeper,” Johnson said. “He was quite front post, and I was just trying to get it anywhere on the back post. If it went in, it went in, which it did. I was pretty happy about it. I was probably looking more for the cross, but I’ll take it.”
Langan brought on sophomore midfielder Chance Pellerin immediately before senior midfielder Teddy Chaouche sent in a corner. Pellerin scored off the set piece, putting Charlotte up 2-1. Junior defender Patrick Hogan sealed Mercer’s fate with his fourth goal of the season in the final 10 minutes, which Johnson assisted.
Now Charlotte, which earned an at-large bid after losing to Marshall in the Conference USA tournament final last weekend faces a round they have not advanced beyond since their 2011 trip to the College Cup final. Although they lost in the second round last year at Virginia Tech, Langan noted the current squad’s versatility makes them better suited for Sunday’s task.
“We can play a few ways,” he said. “We can be real tough and real solid—a good set piece team. We have some really nice offensive weapons that we can get the ball down and play as well. To win playoff games you’ve gotta show both in the game—you’ve gotta weather those times when the other team is on top, because now you’re playing the nation’s best. They’re the only ones left.”
Langan confidently noted that the quality of the 49ers’ regular season schedule prepared them for postseason competition.
“This team, we’ve played one of the hardest schedules in the country,” he said. “This team has been through lots of tests [against] teams who want to build and be really expansive, teams who are set piece teams, teams who are very technical, and try and open you up one-v-one. We’ve played every type of opponent this year you could face, and they’ve all been the nation’s best.”
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