MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- What to watch for in tonight's New Year's Eve game between the 49ers and Memphis at FedEx Forum:
-- Big news here is that Tigers point guard Joe Jackson, the team's second leading scorer (11.8) who averages 3.1 assists, won't play. There are reports that Jackson isn't happy at Memphis and might transfer.
-- Charlotte's biggest cover problem will be 6-6 Memphis guard Will Barton, who averages 20.5 points and 9.2 rebounds. That's right, 9.2 rebounds. Might see 49ers small forward DeMario Mayfield on Barton, or 6-3 point guard Pierria Henry.
-- This is a renewal, briefly, of the Charlotte-Memphis rivalry in the 49ers' Conference USA days. The 49ers have a 6-7 record against Memphis. They last played in the 2005 C-USA tournament, with Memphis winning 83-69.
-- There's one common opponent for the 49ers and Tigers this season: Miami. Memphis beat the Hurricanes in Coral Gables 71-54; Miami beat Charlotte at Halton 76-61.
-- This is a big sports weekend in Memphis, much of centered at the FedEx Forum, which is right off the Beale Street entertainment district. The NBA's Grizzlies were in town Friday against Houston, the Liberty Bowl (Vandy vs. Cincy) is this afternoon, and the 49ers and Tigers play tonight. Memphis rings in the New Year with an electric guitar drop on Beale Street.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- What to watch for in tonight's New Year's Eve game between the 49ers and Memphis at FedEx Forum:
Thursday, December 29, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Observations from Charlotte's 80-67 loss Wednesday to Arkansas:
-- There's a troubling trend developing in center Chris Braswell's game: He's falling in love with his jump shot. Braswell is a skilled inside player -- although not overly physical -- but he's taken to going outside in recent games against teams like Arkansas and Miami who have bruisers inside.
Braswell, who didn't practice this week because he was attending to a family medical emergency, was a non-factor against the Hogs, scoring seven points on three-of-11 shooting (including one of two from 3-point range). He had at least two of his shots blocked when he tried to go inside. He was three-of-15 against Miami.
"We need Chris to be around the rim a little more," said coach Alan Major.
Wonder if Major will be offer that sentiment to Braswell between now and Saturday's game at Memphis.
-- The Razorbacks eventually wore down the 49ers. "What they do is really not that complicated," said Major. Said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson: "I thought they were fatigued. You could see it. We were making Charlotte not want to come into the paint."
-- Like it or not, the 49ers have a reputation as a perimeter-oriented team. "They're a 3-point shooting team," said Anderson. The 49ers only made five of 24 3s against Arkansas, though. Those 24 long-range shots accounted for more than a third of Charlotte's 63 field-goal attempts.
-- E. Victor Nickerson had a tough night, missing all six of his shots and making just five-of-10 free throws. These are the kinds of games freshmen learn from.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Here’s a quick Q&A with Arkansas associate head coach Melvin Watkins, a former 49ers head coach and point guard. He had a 42-20 in two seasons with the 49ers in 1997-98 and helped Charlotte to the 1977 Final Four. He left for Charlotte for Texas A&M, where he was head coach from 1999-2004. This is his first season at Arkansas after six seasons as an assistant coach at Missouri.
Q. Is this the first time one of your teams has played Charlotte?
“Yes, and I hope it’s the last time!”
Q. What kinds of emotions will you have tonight?
“Not as much as you’d think, since it’s not at Charlotte. If it was (at Halton Arena), I could be all over the place. But the fact is, it’s here and I’ve been removed for some years. They’re not kids I recruited, so that makes it different. Still, they’re the 49ers and they’ll always have a special place in my heart.”
Q. Do you have much connection with the 49ers basketball program?
“Purposely, I stay away a bit. You’ve got to allow the coaching staff there to do their job. So I’m not running any kind of interference. When Bobby Lutz was there, I might have, but he was my assistant when I was there. I still get some calls from people, but I don’t want to interfere.”
Q. Do you ever get back to Charlotte?
“I did go back this summer. I took my kids and my grandkids to the arena, and they’ve got my jersey up in there. So that was pretty special.”
Q. How are things at Arkansas?
“What I like is the passion for sports they have here. Basketball has been off some, and that’s why we’re here, to get it going again. This is the only show in town, in the state, really. They don’t have pro sports here. So we want to get this building rocking and rolling again, to get back to that.”
Q. Do you know Alan Major?
“I do not, other than to be in the profession, just to sit down say hello once or twice. I knew him when he was at Ohio State a little, so it’s been from afar. Just looking at what I’ve seen this year, they need to give him time to get it going. I mean, they played at a very high level against Davidson, so it appears the potential is there.”
Q. Do you have your Charlotte football season tickets yet”
“I told Judy (Rose) I should get some free ones. She didn’t agree with me!”
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A few things to watch for in tonight's 49ers-Arkansas game at Bud Walton Arena. Woooo-eee Pig Sooo-eeey. I'm going to be hearing a lot of that.
-- The Razorbacks (8-3) have won three straight and are 8-1 at home. There only losses this season are at Connecticut (75-62) and Oklahoma (78-63).
-- Arkansas likes to press, so ball security will be important for the 49ers. They've been cutting down on their turnovers recently, and their nine against Miami last week were a season low. Not having Luka Voncina (out for personal reasons) will limit the number of ball handlers at coach Alan Major's disposal. It will be a test for freshman point guard Pierria Henry -- as well as the 49ers' ability to finish when/if they break the press. Maybe this will be a breakout game for Derrio Green, who likes to force the action when pressured.
-- Arkansas is young, with one freshman and two sophomores in the starting lineup. Three other freshmen are in the rotation. That might explain why the Hogs have had trouble finishing games the way coach Mike Anderson would like.
-- The 49ers will be going against Arkansas associate head coach Melvin Watkins, a former Charlotte player and head coach (he was 42-20 with two NCAA appearances in 1996-97. Watkins was a guard on the 49ers' 1977 Final Four team.
Friday, December 23, 2011
The Charlotte 49ers' soccer team picked up some national honors today from Soccer America magazine.
Forward Giuseppe Gentile was named the magazine's freshman of the year and senior defender Charles Rodriguez made its first 'MVP' team.
Gentile, who played at Charlotte's Ardrey Kell High, led the 49ers with 10 goals this season and was also the Atlantic 10's rookie of the year. Rodriguez, who had already made named first-team All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is one of three senior starters the 49ers will lose for next season.
North Carolina's Ben Speas, who scored the winning goal in the Tar Heels' 1-0 national championship victory against Charlotte, was named the magazine's player of the year.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Observations from the 49ers' 76-61 loss against Miami:
-- Center Chris Braswell is not a physical player. So when he's matched up against a burly guy like the Hurricanes' 6-10, 280-pound Reggie Johnson, he's going to struggle -- especially if his jumper isn't falling. Braswell was 3 of 15 from the field, and took six 3-pointers (making two). Coach Alan Major said Braswell might have "drifted a little bit," going against Johnson and was also worn down from having to guard him. And Johnson (11 points, 7 rebounds) is a load.
-- The 49ers continue to cut down on their turnovers. They had another season-low in that department (eight) against Miami.
-- And although the 49ers shot just 32.2 percent, they had 10 assists on their 19 baskets, a good ratio.
-- Luka Voncina will travel to his home in Slovenia on Friday to tend to family issues. The 49ers coaching staff hopes he's back for the Jan. 4 Atlantic 10 opener against Richmond.
-- Miami could be a decent ACC team. The Hurricanes haven't played with a full squad all season, with Johnson missing the first nine games with a knee injury and forward DeQuan Jones being reinstated for the 49ers game after a being suspended in the NCAA's Nevin Shapiro/booster investigation. Miami was without all-ACC guard Malcon Grant against the 49ers. Grant missed the game to be with his family after his brother died unexpectedly.
-- It has been exactly one month since the 49ers last lost, when East Tennessee State beat them at the buzzer Nov. 22. Charlotte is taking better care of the ball during a five-game winning streak, with its nine turnovers Monday against Coppin State a season low.
-- Charlotte guard Luka Voncina won’t play because of personal reasons.
-- The Hurricanes have center Reggie Johnson back. Johnson, who missed the season’s first nine games with a knee injury, scored 15 points in his return last week against Florida Atlantic.
-- Miami guard DeQuan Jones, who had been sitting out in connection to the school’s NCAA investigation into former booster Nevin Shapiro, has been reinstated and could play.
The Huntington (W.Va.) Press-Dispatch is reporting this morning that Marshall assistant coach Phil Ratliff will be the 49ers' offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
Charlotte coach Brad Lambert can officially hire Ratliff and the remainder of his staff beginning Jan. 1. He has already has hired offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, defensive coordinator Bruce Tall and defensive coach James Adams.
Ratliff is a former All-American offensive lineman at Marshall who has been the Thundering Herd's tight ends coach. He was also tight ends coach at James Madison, as well as a high school coach in West Virginia.
While at Marshall, one of Ratliff’s primary recruiting areas was Charlotte.
“Our recruiting philosophy is going to be to establish a strong home base,” said Ratliff. “We’re going to want to keep the top kids from Charlotte in Charlotte. Beyond that, we’ll work hard in North and South Carolina and Georgia. I think parents want their kids to stay close to home, so they can drive no further than three or four hours to see them play.”
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Ten days after his Charlotte 49ers played for a national championship, Jeremy Gunn has resigned to become the men's soccer coach at Stanford.
Gunn was 64-26-14 in five seasons with Charlotte, including this season's run to the College Cup championship game, where the 49ers lost 1-0 to North Carolina.
"I want to thank everybody involved at Charlotte ... for the incredible five years that I’ve been able to enjoy here,” Gunn said in a statement. “The support from the university has been a major factor in the wonderful success we’ve had and the incredible endeavors of the fine student-athletes that I’ve
had the pleasure and privilege to coach here. We’ve had unbelievable community support, and support from our alums, student body and the university community. I couldn’t have fonder memories about a place. Charlotte will always have a very, very special place in my heart.
"I want to thank Chancellor (Phil) Dubois, Judy and (Senior Associate Athletic Director) Kim Whitestone for the wonderful opportunity they gave me. I appreciate all the hard work and dedication that everybody has shown to allow our program to enjoy the excitement and success over the last few years. I will miss all of the people that I have met here, and will be looking forward to cheering Niner Nation on to future successes.”
Stanford was 6-10-2 last season, but the Cardinal is usually one of the country's top programs.
In 2010, Gunn signed a three-year extension on his 49ers contract that originally paid him about $65,000 per year.
"The chancellor and I made a competitive, substantial offer to Jeremy to try and keep him as our coach," said 49ers athletics director Judy Rose. "We are disappointed in Jeremy's decision but understand the appeal of Stanford and wish him well."
Monday, December 19, 2011
-- Coach Alan Major confirmed that the reason why Luka Voncina missed the game -- and why he'll be out for a while -- is due to a family issue in his home of Slovenia. Voncina didn’t dress for the game but sat on the bench and is also expected to miss Thursday’s game against Miami. He will return home over the holidays (missing games at Arkansas and Memphis) and isn’t expected back until at least the 49ers’ Atlantic 10 opener Jan. 4 against Richmond.
-- Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell credits a pre-game Christmas carol he sang to Akeem Ellis for the 29 points Ellis scored. “I sang to him: ‘All I Want For Christmas Is For You To Play,’ ” Mitchell said.
-- Charlotte’s Jamar Briscoe, who scored 14 points, said the victory eased the pain of the loss his hometown Baltimore Ravens suffered Sunday to the San Diego Chargers.
-- Charlotte's nine turnovers were a season low and the 49ers' five-game winning streak is the longest in Major's two seasons.
49ers guard Luka Voncina will miss tonight's game because personal issues. Here's the school's press release:
Charlotte 49ers sophomore guard Luka Voncina (Ljubljana, Slovenia) will be on the bench but will not dress for Monday’s game vs. Coppin State as he prepares to head home later this week to deal with personal issues. Out of respect to Voncina, specifics of the situation will not be discussed.
“Information at this time, even for Luka, is unclear,” said 49ers head coach Alan Major. “ He will learn more when he returns home. Until then, we respect his situation. It’s important that he knows that we are here for him and that his team stands by him and it’s important for us to allow him every opportunity to deal with this as necessary.”
Voncina is averaging 3.0 points and .8 rebounds for Charlotte and is averaging 15.6 minutes per game.
A few things to watch for tonight when the 49ers go for their fifth straight victory in a game at Halton Arena against Coppin State (4-5):
-- Deuce Briscoe's movement off the ball: For the first time in his college career, Briscoe is coming off the bench and isn't necessarily the point guard when he does get in the game. So he's having to adjust to not having the ball in his hands all the time. Coach Alan Major says Briscoe is starting to figure out how to get open, moving and cutting off the ball to get open. Briscoe was able to do that in a recent game, breaking to the basket and taking a pass from Chris Braswell for an easy layup.
-- Javarris Barnett's defensive rebounding: Barnett is averaging a career-high 7.3 rebounds, 6.3 of them defensive (that's third in the Atlantic 10 behind Fordham's Chris Gaston and Braswell). Barnett is keeping himself between the basket and the guy he's defending, and that's making him more than just the 3-point threat that he already is for this team.
-- 3-point defense: The Eagles, who are 0-5 on the road this season, score 42 percent of their points on 3-point baskets. Led by guard Tony Gallo, they shoot 35 percent from 3-point range. Gallo scored 27 in a victory recently against Towson and makes 36.6 percent of his 3s.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team signed four players for the 2012 fall season: Mireya Braxton (Providence High), Britney Leigh Held, Michelle Hovey (Raleigh Lighthouse Christian) and Carly Ochs.
The 49ers will have nine returning players from this year's squad.
"I am very excited about announcing our 2012 signing class," said Charlotte head coach Chris Redding, who just completed his fifth season with the program. "Our staff has worked extremely hard to not only find talented volleyball players, but to find young women with the drive to be successful on the court and in the classroom. This group has diverse talents that we feel will compliment a solid returning core."
-- From press releases
Sunday, December 11, 2011
HOOVER, Ala. -- Soccer can be a cruel sport.
All it takes for a team that's been dominated for an entire game is one moment of magic. And the game can be won in that moment. That's what happened for the North Carolina Tar Heels, who beat the 49ers 1-0 in the College Cup final on Sunday at Regions Park.
The 49ers outshot the Tar Heels 19-10 and peppered the goal constantly in the final 10 minutes, but couldn't get the equalizer. Included was one 40-second flurry where Charlotte had five shots. The 49ers hit the post twice.
But the Tar Heels hit the shot that counted, a 25-yard blast from Akron transfer Ben Speas. It was the second consecutive season Speas played for a national-championship winning team (soccer players don't have to sit out a season if they transfer).
What's next for the 49ers? They lose three senior starters, most notably All-American defender Charles Rodriguez and Isaac Cowles, the College Cup's most outstanding defender. But eight starters will be back.
Maybe they'll again get the kind of support they received from Charlotte fans Sunday, when six busloads worth of them made the trip to Hoover.
"I couldn't hear any Carolina fans," said Cowles. "They were showing some Charlotte love."
HOOVER, Ala. -- Ben Speas scored on a 25-yard shot with 26 minutes remaining, giving North Carolina a 1-0 victory against Charlotte and the NCAA men's soccer championship at Regions Park.
Speas' shot gave the top-seeded Tar Heels (21-2-3) their second championship. The unseeded 49ers end at 16-5-4.
Charlotte had much of the game's play and outshot the Tar Heels 19-10. Many of those shots came in the last 10 minutes as the 49ers desperately tried for the equalizer. Charlotte hit the cross bar once and defender Thomas Allen also had a header cleared off the line by North Carolina's Jordan Gafa.
There was one moment of controversy in the game, when Charlotte's Donnie Smith was knocked down in the penalty box by North Carolina's Kirk Urso in the 47th minute. Referee Michael Kennedy didn't call a foul, however, on what would have been a penalty kick.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
HOOVER, Ala. -- There will be all sorts of storylines swirling through the chilly Alabama air over the next 36 hours or so as the Charlotte 49ers prepare to face North Carolina for the NCAA men's soccer championship on Sunday.
But here's the bottom line:
This is a great moment -- probably the greatest moment ever -- for men's college soccer in the state of North Carolina, for those of us who have watched it, played it, been a part of it in any way.
The sport has been dominated around here by the Tar Heels women's program for decades. But now, having two schools from the state -- and the same university system -- playing for the men's championship brings about a new kind of attention to the sport.
Men's soccer has always been strong in the ACC -- North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest have each won national titles.
But schools like UNC Greensboro and Greensboro College have also won national championships in the past. Who knew that decades ago, Appalachian State had one of the country's top programs and that former Mountaineer great Thompson Usiyan remains the sport's all-time leading scorer?
The arrival of the 49ers to college soccer's biggest stage shows once and for all that there are still teams beyond the ACC that can have a national impact.
The 49ers might be unseeded, but they've been ranked in most national polls for most of the season. They played a nonconference schedule that was as tough as any in the nation.
They've earned their way here, every step of the way.
The Tar Heels won the ACC regular-season and tournament titles. They're the top seeds. They're in the College Cup for a fourth straight time.
They expected to be here.
And now two sister universities, separated by about 130 miles but not by a state border, play for it all.
Fans of college soccer in North Carolina will relish this, and they should be proud.
Friday, December 9, 2011
HOOVER, Ala. -- Isaac Cowles hit the deciding penalty kick after goalkeeper Gavin Dawson made a key save, as the 49ers advanced past Creigton on penalty kicks and into Sunday's national men's soccer championship at Regions Park.
The 49ers (16-4-4) will play the winner of the North Carolina-UCLA on Sunday at 4 p.m. for the championship.
Charlotte and second-seed Creighton (21-2-1) played to a scoreless draw after 90 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes.
The 49ers, who made it to the College Cup by getting past Connecticut in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals, made all four of their penalties against the Bluejays. Creighton made just one, and when Dawson saved one by Kris Clark and Ethan Finlay sent one high, it was left for Cowles, Charlotte's senior co-captain to make his to clinch it.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Here are a few things to watch for in tonight's 49ers-Creighton men's soccer College Cup semifinal:
-- The Bluejays have the nation's top defense (their .21 goals-against average is best in NCAA history; they've allowed five all season; goalkeeper Brian Holt's 43 career shutouts are an NCAA record), but they've also got one of the country's top offensive players. Ethan Finlay has 14 goals and scored the game winner in the Bluejays' quarterfinal victory against South Florida in overtime.
-- There are no stats for balls won in the air (headers), but Charlotte is about as good as it gets doing that, especially defensively in the penalty box. The 49ers won just about everything in the air in the quarterfinal victory against a bigger Connecticut team. They'll need to be as strong again tonight.
-- The best Charlotte player at breaking down a defense individually: forward Evan James. He'll go one-on-one, usually down the right side, against Bluejays defenders.
-- Winning the ball at midfield and converting quickly into a counter-attack is a 49ers staple. Midfielders Tyler Gibson, Donnie Smith, Aidan Kirkbride and Owen Darby will need be solid in that department tonight.
-- If the game should go to a penalty-kick shootout, watch for the 49ers to again bring in backup goalkeeper Gavin Dawson, as they did against UConn. He's bigger than starter Klay Davis (6-3 to 6-0) and fills that goal up better.
Don't know if there's ever been a bigger weekend in Charlotte 49ers sports history. Charlotte faces Creighton in the men's soccer College Cup tonight at 6, with a berth in Sunday's championship game -- potentially against North Carolina -- on the line. Then there is the not-so-small matter of the 49ers' men's basketball team going against Mecklenburg County rival Davidson at Halton Arena on Saturday.
There's always the 1977 men's basketball Final Four. And there also was something pretty similar 15 years ago, the last time the 49ers advanced to the College Cup.
In 1996, Charlotte played (and lost to) Florida International in the College Cup semis on Friday, Dec. 13. The next night, the 49ers also played Davidson in basketball, beating the Wildcats 70-68 in Belk Arena. That was the year Halton Arena opened.
If you remember the '77 and '96 weekends, post it in the comments section here and remind us how it was and how it might be different from today. Or if there's another moment that was as eagerly anticipated, let us know about that, too.
Of course, everything goes off the charts if there is a 49ers-Tar Heels soccer final.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
HOOVER, Ala. -- Whether Charlotte and North Carolina face each other Sunday for the national men's soccer championship remains to be seen. The 49ers play Creighton and the Tar Heels face UCLA in the semifinals Friday
But there already is some 49ers-Tar Heels history at Regions Field, which serves primarily as a minor-league baseball stadium. The Birmingham Barons’ Michael Jordan got his first hit as a pro baseball player on April 10, 1994, against Knoxville’s Joe Ganote – a former 49ers pitcher.
Ganote lasted longer in pro baseball than Jordan did. He bounced around the minors for seven seasons from 1990-96.
-- Charlotte soccer player Evan James is an accomplished singer and would have majored in the music field had time constraints not conflicted with soccer. He said athletics director Judy Rose once asked him to sing the national anthem before a men’s basketball game at Halton Arena. James, however, declined. He’s from Canada.
-- The 49ers’ are relatively healthy this season. The only injury of real consequence came when midfielder Will Mayhew (Concord Robinson High) went out for the season with a torn ACL in September.
-- Charlotte’s Gentile was named a first-team freshman All-American by College Soccer News on Thursday … 49ers senior defender Charles Rodriguez and James have been invited to Major League Soccer’s player combine Jan. 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Other College Cup players invited to the combine: North Carolina forward Billy Schuler, defender Matt Hedges and midfielder Kirk Urso; Creighton defender Andrew Duran, midfielder Greg Jordan and forward Ethan Finlay; UCLA forward/midfielder Eder Arreola, midfielder/defender Andy Rose, goalkeeper Brian Rowe and defender Shawn Singh.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
A few College Cup notes. The 49ers play second-seed Creighton on Friday in a national semifinal in Hoover, Ala.:
SOCCER IN BASEBALL STADIUM: Despite the recent construction of soccer-specific stadiums in several cities around the country (Kansas City, Kan.; Frisco, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Harrison, N.J.; Carson, Calif., among others), the NCAA awarded this year’s College Cup to Hoover, where the games will be played in the Birmingham Barons’ minor-league baseball stadium.
MEASURING UP: Charlotte’s all-time records against the other College Cup teams: North Carolina, 3-14; Creighton, 1-2; UCLA, 0-2. The Bruins came to Charlotte in 1979 and beat the 49ers 4-2 in a game played in Memorial Stadium.
FAMILIAR FACES: The 49ers and Tar Heels played a preseason exhibition at Transamerica Field on Aug. 21. More than 4,000 watched North Carolina rally to a 2-1 lead before the game was called with 20 minutes remaining because of a rainstorm.
CREIGHTON'S DEFENSE: The Bluejays (21-2) allow just .22 goals per game and have conceded five all season. Like Charlotte, they've got experienced seniors in their defense. Creighton advanced to the College Cup with a 1-0 overtime victory against South Florida on Sunday. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but postponed when 6 inches of snow fell in Omaha, Neb.
-- BOLOWICH'S IMPACT: The Bluejays are coached by Elmar Bolowich, who left North Carolina for Creighton earlier this year. Bolowich is the Tar Heels' all-time winningest coach and in his 22 seasons in Chapel Hill took North Carolina to 15 NCAA tournament, five College Cups and one national title. North Carolina made the College Cup from 2008 through '10, so this is Bolowich's four straight trip.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
STORRS, Conn. -- The Charlotte 49ers advanced to the College Cup for a second time in school history, getting past Connecticut on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie.
Charlotte will play in this week's national finals in Hoover, Ala.
Charlotte trailed 1-0 late in the game until freshman Giuseppe Gentile's equalizing goal with three minutes left.
After a scoreless overtime, Charlotte made four of its five penalty kicks, with senior Charles Rodriguez making the clinching one.
The Charlotte (16-4-3) will play the winner of today's Creighton-South Florida in the semifinals Friday.
Saturday, December 3, 2011