“We still want to win the Atlantic 10 regular season, then win the tournament championship,” said Gibson. “Then we want to win the national championship.”
The 23rd-ranked 49ers (10-3-2, 3-1-2 Atlantic 10) are well positioned for the first two. The third? For a team that has played as challenging a nonconference schedule as Charlotte has this season, it’s not entirely out of the question.
A 2-1 overtime victory at traditional-power Virginia, followed by a competitive, 3-1 loss at top-ranked Maryland helped push Charlotte into the national spotlight. The 49ers also opened their season with a victory against 13th-ranked Coastal Carolina. Only unsatisfying trips to Philadelphia and New York last week – which produced a 2-2 tie with La Salle and a 1-0 loss to Fordham – has cast a bit of a cloud on Charlotte’s season.
“That was kind of one of our weaker weekends,” said Gibson, who has two goals and three assists this season.
Charlotte’s road to the postseason isn’t assured. The 14-team Atlantic 10 tournament (Nov. 10-13 in St. Louis) includes only six teams. Charlotte is in fourth place with 11 points, but just one point behind Fordham, Dayton and La Salle who are tied for first with 12 points each, heading into Friday's game against defending league champ Xavier, currently in fifth place with 10 points (9-3-2, 3-2-1) and Sunday’s game against Dayton (5-11, 4-2).
When it comes to the 48-team NCAA tournament, the 49ers have found themselves a safety net. Their high RPI, currently 17, would give them a strong shot at an at-large spot if they don’t win the automatic berth that comes with the league tournament title.
“It’s good to have that, but we don’t want to have to rely on it,” said coach Jeremy Gunn.
The 49ers will honor seniors Isaac Cowles, Charles Rodriguez, T.J. Beaulieu, Evan James, Matt Wallace, Gavin Dawson, Jason Hawes, Tyler Duncan and Paul Willoughby on Sunday.
-- Charlotte’s women (6-8-4, 3-3-1) are tied for sixth in the Atlantic 10, heading into their final regular-season games Friday at Xavier and Sunday at Dayton. The 49ers are led by Macky Wingo, who has six goals and four assists.
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