Monday, August 31, 2009

Campus Conversation: Fall Sports Preview

Niner Basketball Fantasy Draft (1995-Present) Who goes #1?

So I had my fantasy football draft last night. Yes NCAA compliance people, it’s a free league. Me and a bunch of buddies are just playing for bragging rights. The league has become tradition. A yearly occurrence. No rules being broken here.

I love fantasy sports. Making trades, waiver wire pickups and the draft. Draft night may be the best part of it all. So my mind wandered a bit…What if we played fantasy basketball with just 49er mens basketball players?

I took the rosters of every 49er mens basketball team from 1995 to the present. Put every guy in the pool. Keep it mind it’s a standard head-to-head 10 team league. Scoring is done through the following categories (PTS, O-REB, D-REB, AST, STLS, BLKS, TO, FT%, 3PT%, FG%). You start a PG, SG, SF, PF and C

For arguments sake, we use their career stats as the basis for selection. Just pretend they are about to play another season for the 49ers. (Fantasy basketball players value is reliant on their teammates more so than other fantasy sports. So, if a Niner played multiple years here, take the team that had the most success and plug them back to play with those same guys. Make sense?)

Through a complete random drawing, I have the 1st pick…who do I take? I narrow it down to four potentials, Withers, Basden, White or Johnson? Lets break it down…

Career #’s
Curtis Withers
117 30.3 15.0 45.1 31.0 63.8 1.9 8.9 0.8 1.1
He averaged a double-double his senior year (16pts/11reb). Probably would have averaged close to 20ppg if we didn’t have De’Angelo Alexander on the team. Never blocked a lot of shots and wasn’t the best FT shooter. His FG% suffered in his senior campaign as he tried to extend his game and add that 15-20 foot jumpshot to his arsenal. But as stated above you select the team that had the most success which would have been his junior year when he averaged 18ppg/9rpg. Curt played in my wheelhouse. His junior/senior years were my freshman/sophomore years as a student. I grew to have a man-crush with C-dub. I would obviously love to have him on my fantasy team, but I can’t take him #1 overall.

Eddie Basden
118 27.2 9.0 49.1 35.2 68.6 2.7 6.5 0.2 2.2
These numbers are deceiving because Eddie was a much improved player his junior and senior years. In those two years he averaged over 12PPG, 7RPG, 3SPG all while shooting a smidge over 50 percent from the field. My worry is he falls into the category of being one of those guys who is a better basketball player than a FANTASY basketball player. We all know Eddie hung his hat on the defensive side of the ball. Other than steals and rebounds defensive stats to jack-squat for my fantasy team. He’s a definite first rounder but not #1 overall.

Rodney White
28 30.9 18.7 48.7 34.7 71.3 1.5 6.5 0.7 1.2
He is probably the most enticing because the sample size is so small and the ceiling is through the roof.(I always wanted to use the word ceiling in relation to an athlete, it seems that’s all scouts say about prospects) Listen that season he put together in 2000 was phenomenal. Keep in mind he missed 5 games that season. Freshman of the Year! What would have happened if he stayed one, maybe two more years and played with Jobey, Demon and Eddie? Oh, how good it is to dream…

DeMarco Johnson
119 30.2 16.8 49.2 30.4 74.8 1.2 7.8 0.5 1.1
I never got to see DeMarco play, not even on tape, but numbers don’t lie. I talked to some folks who were around in the late '90s. He was an automatic 18pts 8.5rebs kinda guy his entire career. By his senior season he was averaging 21ppg/9rpg. Good enough for CUSA Player of the Year. He’s 4th on our all-time scoring list. Give me him with Sean Colson (some say DeMarco is why Colson is our all time assist leader, he passed it Johnson and he makes a layup) and a ‘young’ Galen Young and its tough to not take him #1 overall.

So its down to White or Johnson…It’s a win-win either way I go, but with the #1 pick I want consistency. I want the sure thing. I want the guy who will get me pts, rebs, quality FG%, not a liability on the FT%. And I want a guy who dropped 23points in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament vs. #1 North Carolina to help force overtime and almost topple the Heels. With the #1 pick, I take DeMarco Johnson.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Charlotte Has Protected This House

Earlier last week the whole Media Relations staff here at Charlotte Athletics took a field trip just right around the corner from our office to the new Student Union. We gawked at its amenities as the five story building was filled with a movie theater, Starbucks, Niner Mac Store, plenty of food choices and a Barnes and Nobles Bookstore.

Meandering through the new center of Charlotte’s campus got me thinking about Charlotte and its great facilities for fall sports. Transamerica Field and Halton Arena are top-notch playing surfaces and have both served Niner Nation since 1996, when both opened for competitive play.

The best part about these athletic stages for 49ers Athletics is that Charlotte has been dominant at them for each fall sport (M/W Soccer and Volleyball) posting winning records since the turn of the millennium.

So without any more of my ramblings on the topic here is some research I piled up about the three fall sports at home over the past nine seasons.

VOLLEYBALL: The volleyball squad plays at Halton Arena (I think everyone knew that) and has posted the most victories of the fall sports since 2000 by tallying an 87-48 record on their home court. The .644 winning percentage includes six home winning seasons as well as five double-digit victory seasons.

Volleyball’s top season came in 2006, when the squad went 12-2 at home and finished fifth in the regular season A-10 action. That season also may have showcased the best home victory since 2000 on Nov. 10 2006, when the Niners defeated Temple, 3-0. The victory was significant because with the victory the Niners clinched a spot in the A-10 Tournament and kept their hopes alive to win the Eastern Division.

The 49ers were unable to catch first place that season, but were able to protect their house from entering opponents.

MEN’S SOCCER: Down at Transamerica Niner fans have seen exactly 100 victories since 2000. The men’s squad has racked up 42 of them as their .623 winning percentage has produced six winning records, four of which have come in the last four years.

Their 42-23-12 record during that span has seen multitudes of great games, but the best probably came in 2005, which is the year that Charlotte moved from Conference USA to the A-10.

Being the new kid in town (or in this case, conference) can be tough. It takes time to adjust to your new surroundings and your new opponents. So many people wouldn’t have been surprised if the 49ers took a step back in 2005 when they moved to the Atlantic 10 Conference.

However the Niners made themselves quite comfortable with their new situation on Nov. 6 with a 1-0 victory over No. 14 Duquesne on Senior Day. The victory was the Niners first over a ranked A-10 opponent and clinched a winning record in the A-10 for the Niners and assured them a spot in the A-10 Tournament.

WOMEN’S SOCCER: Dominant. That is the only word to describe Charlotte women’s soccer at home. The Niners have posted two undefeated seasons at home and seven winning seasons since ’00. The 58-22-7 is the best among fall sports as the .707 winning percentage is outstanding to say the least.

Over the last three seasons, the 49ers have only lost two of thirty games (not to shabby) which is a main reason that Charlotte has claimed the regular season A-10 title in each of those years. But when I think about the best victory for the Niners during our nine year frame I’m brought back to a non-conference tournament game against Clemson on Sept. 16, 2007.

The 3-1 victory over the 17th ranked Tigers in the Carolinas’ Cup served as a stepping stone for the Charlotte program and was the Niners’ first victory over Clemson. The Niners would go on to finish the year as A-10 Regular and Tournament Champions and made their third-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

There it is. My rundown of Niners home games since 2000. Also don’t forget about today’s women’s soccer match against Appalachian State at 7 p.m. (I’ll be there)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The First Time...

Starting my fourth year at the University this fall, I must admit that I have been overwhelmed each and every year on the first day of class. Since I'm here year-round, sometimes the big dates on the calendar slip by me and leave me surprised when I encounter campus on a day when something massive is happening. I admit, I can get myopic into the my world and not pay attention to things going on around me. It's good to get a dose of reality from time to time and let the world hit you in the face and remind you not to take things for granted.

Working with the volleyball program closely over the past several seasons has shown me to enjoy the little things. One such event that I enjoy is catching a freshman out on campus right around the first day of classes. The volleyball team, much like the soccer programs, comes in near the middle of August to start preseason training because their first matches are right around the first week of classes each year (women's soccer actually played a match the day before the first day of class this season). They have some time to themselves to bond and put their own blinders on and focus in on getting prepared for the another season of competition. It's similar to summer camp. It's just you, your team and practices.

Then, all of a sudden, that blissful focus is interrupted with classes. Sometimes we forget that attending classes and studying and taking tests is supposed to be the real reason why they are all here in the first place. The looks on the faces of first-year students is fun for me to see. It's their first taste of freedom. Sure, they have played on plenty of road trips at many summer tournaments and athletics showcases in their lives, but someone was always around after school in the fall and spring to make sure homework was done.

When we're operating during the summer, there is always a parking space near the building and traffic is a breeze. Now, around 24,000 students descended upon campus Monday to start another year in earnest. That was a shock to me. Not a parking space in either of the two decks near my building. Traffic was gridlocked as regular staffers were just trying to get to work, returning students were trying to vulture their usual parking spots and newcomers were making u-turns and reading street signs to find their way around. It takes about two to three weeks each year for this to calm down and for people to get their routines established. We just have to adjust and allow a little extra time at this point in the year.

As the volleyball team gets ready for the season, I asked head coach Chris Redding about that first week of classes.

"The first week is fun to see, but you can really get in trouble by the third and fourth week, when the workload is in full swing for them. We try and do things ahead of time like get tutors and encourage them to read and study and not put it off. We emphasize strong time management due to all of the things we ask of our players."

With the new student union open (and it's really a sight to see), the proverbial center of campus has shifted down our direction on the South end of campus. We saw scads and scads of people walking around with maps, looking around at all of newness on our end. Just in the past three years of my working here, most everything around us is new from the academic buildings near Halton Arena to the union, to the one-year-old parking deck beside it to our baseball stadium and the new graduate school campus just behind that. It's amazing. I can remember coming to this campus back in the late 80's and just getting from one end of campus to another takes on a totally different trip these days.

We just had opening day for the student body and now it's opening day for the volleyball program on Friday (at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.) Sometimes, I like to live the world through someone else's eyes as they see things for the first time. It invigorates me and reminds us all to enjoy this place and not take for granted all of the great resources and new things we are a part of now and the new things that are coming on the horizon.

--Ryan Rose
Media Relations

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Charlotte 49ers Athletic Media Relations Department sat down with third-year head coach Jeremy Gunn to get his thoughts on the 49ers men’s soccer program and the 2009 season. Last season, the 49ers enjoyed the program’s first national rankings since 1998. Charlotte won 12 games and three regular-season tournaments in 2008.

The 49ers have won 24 games, captured three regular-season tournaments titles, reached the finals of the A-10 Tournament and been nationally-ranked over the past two seasons. What are your thoughts on the direction of the program? I’m just really excited about the upcoming season. The first year was an unknown quantity and we had such a thin squad that it was mostly about performing the best that we could and we did very well with that. In the second year we had a lot more players and we had a tremendous season. We fell a little bit short at the end of the year after we had performed so well, but we suffered many injuries and ran out of some steam - especially due to relying on so many freshmen. Now I feel that we are going to have the strongest squad depth and the most experience since I have been at Charlotte so hopefully we can set the sights real high.

The 49ers return nine starters and 15 letterwinners off a 2008 team that appeared in several national polls. What are your thoughts on the depth of this year’s squad? Our depth will be a big help this year. In the past I didn’t feel as if we had enough options at certain positions. I’m really hoping that this year I will be losing sleep over our depth chart unlike the last couple of years where selections were pretty straightforward. This season I feel we will have competition at every position. So the hope is as we go through this season that players can really compete for minutes which will keep the whole squad fresher and a little bit hungrier.

After winning 12 games in each of the last two seasons, what are your goals for this season? At the end of the season we always want to be in the Atlantic 10 Tournament so that we can contend for the Championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament. But our main focus is to take one thing at a time and the first thing will be to have a good preseason that will set a good foundation for the season. Then we want to perform well in our non-conference games, hopefully giving us momentum heading in A-10 play. After every game you reassess your goals and you always hope that they go up instead of going lower. We need to make sure we are peaking at the end of the season.

The 49ers men’s soccer program has made five appearances in the NCAA Tournament and Charlotte reached the 1996 College Cup. What steps do you think the program needs to take return to the NCAA Tournament? It is as simple as winning games and outscoring your opponents. We showed last year that when we are playing very well we can play with anyone; especially in some of the early season games when we had our best lineups on the field. Even after we took some key injuries we took Maryland, the 2008 National Champions, to overtime on their home field, so we showed that we can compete with absolutely anybody in the country. I think the main focus for us will be keeping healthy and staying hungry and with the tough schedule we will have to be mentally tougher than in years past.

What are your thoughts on the 2009 schedule which features games against national powers Clemson, Furman, UNC Greensboro, South Carolina, Wake Forest and Winthrop as well as the A-10 foes. The A-10 sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament last season? I think it’s fantastic. I was looking through the media guides from about 15 years ago and that’s how the schedule looked back then, and those teams were always ranked. When I came to this program I said that we want our team to always be nationally recognized and compete with the very best in the nation. When you look at the schedule compared to a couple years ago it is night and day. The A-10 schedule is always extremely tough with three teams from the conference making the NCAA Tournament last season and we could have very easily been a fourth. Going into the season there are two nationally-ranked teams in our conference. The conference schedule is always going to be very difficult, but what we have changed is the non-conference portion of our schedule as we play a number of highly ranked teams. Every game on the schedule will be a tough challenge this year.

How will the 49ers tough non-conference schedule effect the 49ers play in Atlantic 10? I think it is going to make us very tough because by changing the schedule we are on the road a little bit more which always stacks the odds against you. Not only are we playing a tougher schedule than previous years but we are also playing more road games which is going to be a tough test for the guys. The reality is that if we can weather the storm and keep making progress throughout the season by the time we reach A-10 play we will have answered a lot of questions and concerns. We need to stay confident, knowing no matter what happens in the first half of the season we are going to be ready for a really tough conference battle.

The 49ers will be without the services of Chris Salvaggione, a semifinalist for the Hermann Award and the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, who was a senior last season. However the 49ers return several talented forwards led by junior Andres Cuero and A-10 All-Rookie team selection Evan James. What are your thoughts on the forwards? With every team you have you must figure out how you are going to adjust to compensate for the players you have lost. You also have to decide what your new strengths are based on your new squad. Salvaggione led the team up front and set the pace where he relied on getting great passes from Andres Cuero so he will be sorely missed. However, I think that we will have the best group of forwards that we have had since I have been at Charlotte. If they are all healthy we have incredible options. Last season, Andres had a tremendous year until he got injured. He has the ability to score as well as create for other people so he will certainly be one of the keys to our attack. Evan James, who showed flashes of brilliance last year, is extremely hungry and I think that he can double his goals total from last season. T.J. Beaulieu, who transferred from Old Dominion, was our leading scorer in the spring and has some of the same qualities as Chris. He is going to frighten defenses and I guarantee that he will score goals. We are also looking at Josh Norwood playing up front. He is a very physical presence and extremely hardworking . He is great at harassing defenders. Jennings Rex could also see time up front after showing really well in the pre-season.

What are your thoughts on the midfield led by returning starters seniors Adam Gross, a preseason All-Atlantic 10 selection, and Luke Exley and sophomores Jason Hawes and Isaac Caughran? We should be very strong in the midfield with Luke Exley and Jason Hawes expected to play major roles. Freshmen Steven Saballos and Tyler Gibson are wonderfully skilled players and will bring some flare into the midfield to compliment some of the blue collar work. Owen Darby, who redshirted last year, is going to be push for playing time. He has a great combative style. This season, we have five central midfielders to pick from which really gives us depth. On the right side, we have Adam Gross who had a tremendous last year scoring goals as well as creating. He also had a standout season in the PDL this summer, and has really developed into a complete player. Julien Brown-Latham, who redshirted last year due to injury, was able to get going in the spring and is very attack-minded. On the other side we have Isaac Caughran who had a tremendous freshman year for us. He can possess the ball and has become more assertive going forward. Local product Donnie Smith, a left-footed left midfielder, is expected to add to the midfield. He showed his class during the academy season and was named the MVP of the North Carolina East-West All-Star Game.

The 49ers defense recorded six shutouts and limited 12 foes to a goal or less in 2008. Anchoring the defenders are returning sophomore starters Isaac Cowles and Charles Rodriguez, an A-10 All-Rookie team selection. What are your thoughts on the 49ers defense? In the central positions, we have Charles Rodriguez and Isaac Cowles returning after stellar seasons last year. Their aerial ability and maturity was beyond their years. Nathan Mathers started every game as a freshman and sophomore but struggled a little last year and didn’t really get to fight for a position. He will be back more determined than ever and will afford us three first choice center backs. Newcomers Nate Badke is an upcoming center back, and Anthony Perez can play either centrally or at full-back. Hopefully both can compete with the older players to get on the field. At right back position, we will have to find a way to replace the creativity of Ryan Swaim. Alexander Deitz played consistently through the spring and will be pushing to make the position his. Freshman Robert May will also compete for time there. Redshirt freshman Justin Tucker has showed great defensive qualities and composure at left back. He has slotted in perfectly. Tyler Duncan, who started for two seasons, should return from knee surgery to push to claim his spot back. We have also added Kyle Griffin, who has shown that he has a very bright future in the program.

Senior three-year starting goalkeeper David Martin returns to the 49ers lineup. Martin has recorded 19 shutouts in his first three seasons at Charlotte. What are your thoughts on the goalkeepers? David Martin has had a tremendous career at Charlotte. Last year he was so consistent and made big saves at important times. He is our number one choice and plans to finish his career as a champion. Behind David we have three excellent understudies competing for time. Sophomore Robert Propst, freshmen Patrick Eavenson, who graduated from Charlotte Catholic, and Klay Davis, from the North Carolina coast, will be pushing for playing time in goal for us.
What should someone expect to see out of a Jeremy Gunn coached Charlotte 49ers men’s soccer team? Hopefully just like last year we will play exciting soccer. It sounds clich├ęd, but we stand behind what we say. When we are in tune the players and the ball move so quickly. Fans at Transamerica Field see fluent passing movement with a purpose. We are always looking to score. A criticism of soccer is that it isn’t direct enough and there is not enough scoring, but for us that isn’t true. Last year we ranked among the nation’s leaders in points scored (sixth), and some of the goals were just breathtaking. Fans that come to see our team play are going to be entertained by quality passing, good ball movement, and tremendously skilled players always creating chances. If we attack well we won’t have to defend as much.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nagy at US Amateur

I had the pleasure of walking a few holes with Corey Nagy the other day for our "Catching up with Corey Nagy" video. And Ron Green, Jr. of the Charlotte Observer did a large article on him over the weekend to prep for the US Amateur he is competing in this week. Both illustrated some of the reasons for Nagy's standout career.

I'm not saying the Corey Nagy will win the US Amateur. It's a grueling test. 312 of the nation's top amateurs competing. To emerge as the one victor is incredible. Only the top 64 from stroke play advance to head-to-head match play brackets. Just making the top 64 is an achievement considering the size and quality of the field.

What I am saying is that Corey Nagy could win it. He's no long shot. He'd be among the list of favorites. He has the physical, mental and emotional game necessary to excel in golf.

He's now a senior for the Charlotte 49ers. He's a three-time honorable mention all-America. As a freshman he was named to the five-man freshman all-America team. In three Atlantic 10 tournaments he has finished 3rd, 2nd and 1st. At the all-America Classic, an elite, invitation-only, individual tournament that he has been invited to the last two years -- he has won both the long drive and the putting contests.

I guess you could equate that to winning both the slam dunk and three-point shooting contests at the NCAA Final Four.

What I am trying to say here is that Corey Nagy is a complete golfer. In baseball, he'd be a five-tool prospect. In basketball, he'd be a lottery pick.

He will leave behind an impressive legacy that follows in the footsteps of Ray Sheedy and Matt Mincer, of Jonas Enander Hedin, Andrew DiBitetto and Trevor Murphy, of Stefan Weidergruen. Impressive golfers, all -- but it's Nagy that holds the 49ers career record for stroke average.

Whether or not he emerges as the top player at the 2009 US Amateur remains to be seen. But the fact that he could ... the fact the he has a legitimate chance to grab that trophy ... the fact that his is one of the names on the leaderboard others are wary of -- that's special.

We have just one more year to enjoy his play for the 49ers. Keep close tabs. After watching him play over the course of his career and hearing him say time and again how much fun he has playing golf, I can tell you he's worth it.

He should know how much fun we have watching him, now.
And how cool will it be to watch him for years to come?

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Year + New People = New Niner Nation

Even if you despise old American literature I’m willing to bet you are at least somewhat familiar with “The Scarlet Letter”. And yes I said ‘bet’ even though the NCAA tells me not to.

Back to the point. You know the story? Hester Prynne commits adultery. She’s forced to wear the scarlet letter ‘A’ (it stands for adultery if you couldn’t put two and two together) on her chest almost like a badge of shame for all the townspeople to see. It’s a story of sin and much deeper themes often discussed and debated upon in ENGL 4050-Topics in 19th Century American Novel. Unfortuanely the class looks to be full.

Events at last nights soccer game reminded me of the novel…

Last night at the ‘Week of Welcome’ event before the soccer match, our athletic director Judy Rose stood before 2,000+ people (mostly freshman) and proclaimed with no notes or cue cards that she can’t stand it when she sees students in other schools colors or even worse rival schools gear. (She specifically cited two shades of blue and a certain red). She later emphatically stated, “You go to Charlotte, You are a member of Niner Nation.”

This proclamation came immediately following the chancellor telling us UNC Charlotte has over 24,000 students and this fall marks the largest freshman class ever. EVER!

Do you see where I am going with this?

In my opinion, a Charlotte student spotted with another schools shirt, shorts, hat, socks, shoes or underwear (not that I would be looking?) on their body should be permanently branded with a green ‘T’ ala "The Scarlet Letter". Why ‘T’? It stands for traitor. When you wear other schools gear you disrespect your own school as well as the athletes and students who attend it. These traitors should be marched to the Belk Tower at high noon every week and serenaded with boos and occasional obscenities. Then, as they walk away with their head down, throw them Charlotte 49ers gear to replace that other stuff.

Maybe I am taking that a little too far? Maybe that’s a little too harsh?

This may have been the proper punishment in 1850, but this is 2009. If you see a fellow classmate with another school’s gear on, talk to them. Ask them why they have it on. Ask them where they go to school. Ask them to show support of 49er athletes. Ask them to show some school pride.

I'm willing to venture people wear that crap because they think its 'cool'. Well, make them feel un-cool because that's exactly what it is. And with the largest freshman class in school history attending their first class this morning we need to make sure the sport the green, gold and white.

As a recent alum of Charlotte I am proud to say I bleed green. The thought of dawning another schools logo across my chest never enters my psyche. I understand I am in the minority. Not every graduate of Charlotte says that, at least not yet.

My favorite line from Judy last night (not verbatim, but close) “I now introduce members from all 16 sports of Charlotte athletics, but for the freshman in the audience tonight, by the time you are seniors we will have 17.”

Football is coming. Get your FSL. or

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top Ten Events of the Fall Season

AHHHHHH!!! I can feel the summer coming to an end as the autumn months close in on us in the Queen City and that means that the Niners fall sports are set to begin. Despite the recent string of steaming hot weather that has flooded the campus (I blame the freshmen), the fall is up on us which brings outstanding foliage to our beautiful campus as well as the beginning of the 2009 Athletic Schedule.

With that in mind us here at the media relations office voted on the top ten events of the fall slate (both home and away). Our panel of Niner experts included yours truly and that’s it. So here comes my rendition of SportsCenter’s top ten starting at the top (It’s as cool as the other side of the pillow):

10. We start with the volleyball’s Dig Pink Match against Fordham on October 2. Last year, over 700 fans entered Halton Arena for the Sixth Annual Fundraiser against Rhode Island. The players will don pink jerseys for the match and is a great nationwide cause to raise money for breast cancer research.

9. Moving into the single digits we have the men’s soccer match at South Carolina. The Sept. 1 match will be the 19th meeting between the teams and even though the teams haven’t meet since 2005 the series is still heated as the previous nine matches have been determined by only one goal, which makes for a thrilling showdown between the Carolina institutes.

8. The Cross Country team makes it first appearance on the countdown at number 8 with the NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., which also serves as the site of the NCAA Championships. The meet serves as a gage as to where the Niners stand nationally as teams from all across the nation converge on the Sycamores’ campus.

7. Lucky number seven brings us back to men’s soccer as their match against California State-Bakersfield on Sept. 18 pits the 49ers against the head coach Jeremy Gunn against his alma mater at Transamerica Field. The match will be the first between the two schools and will also be Charlotte’s first match in the Charlotte/Nike Invitational. Emotions are sure to be high in this early season home match.

6. Making their second appearance on the list is cross country and the Charlotte Invitational at McAlpine Park. The invitational is the XC’s teams only home meet of the season and will be held at nearby McAlpine Park. Last year, both Charlotte squads won the invitational titles and the women’s team dominated the competition placing five in the top six. The meet will be Niners fans only chance to see their XC team in action at home.

5. Halfway through the list we find the Volleyball team again with another home match this time against defending A-10 champs (regular and tournament) Dayton. Last year the Flyers went 13-0 in conference and made it to the NCAA Tournament. The Oct. 23 match will pit the 49ers against a preseason ranked squad, which could be a huge momentum boost for Charlotte heading into the final stretch of the season.

4. On Sunday, Sept. 13 No. 18 University of Georgia women’s soccer comes into town for a showdown with Niner Nation. Last year both teams made it to the NCAA Tournament with UGA bowing out in the first round, while Charlotte fell to eventual champs, UNC, in the second round. The teams met two years ago in Athens with the Bulldogs coming away with a 2-0 victory. This time the 49ers look to revenge their road loss with a victory over the national prominent program.

3. Two away from the top spot we find the men’s soccer match at Wake Forest on Sept. 29. The Demon Deacons have made it to the College Cup the previous three seasons and enter this year ranked third. Last year, Charlotte nearly upset eventual NCAA Champion, Maryland, but fell to the Terrapins on the road by an overtime goal. This year, Charlotte looks to knock off a top team and Wake has the making of a great opportunity.

2. Barely missing out on the top spot is the Oct. 9th showdown between women’s soccer and A-10 foe Dayton. Despite being the three-time defending A-10 Regular Season Champs and two-time defending A-10 Tournament Champs, the 49ers were snubbed by the Preseason A-10 Coaches Poll, who put the Flyers ahead of the Niners. The road match is likely to determine the A-10 Regular Season Champ and will be ripe with talented players on both sides of the ball.

1.* Taking down the top spot is none other than the highly competitive top-level skill adjective-filled weekly Staff Basketball pick-up games held on the Charles Hayward Memorial Court. This great display of athletic prowess is a chance for members of the 49er Athletic Department to relive the glory days and talk some in-office smack. Tickets to these free marquee event are nearly impossible to obtain, but are worth every penny.

* This in no way is the top event, but I am extremely biased and I had the only vote.

There you have it Niner Nation. Make sure to make it out to all of these home events this fall and follow all the road action on

~Patrick McCoy, Media Relations Office

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coming Home

You can never go home again. I hate that phrase. It reminds me that I’m getting older. I don’t necessarily believe that either. Once you leave home and make adult decisions, you can go home again. Sure, things change, but they don’t have to be worse. Today, we taped the four fall sports preview television shows to air on UNC Charlotte Cable Television (TWC Channel 22, On Demand at Channel 1234, check for schedule information) and it dawned on me that sometimes, you can go home again.

I remember when I left home after college for my first full-time job out West. I do not consider myself an emotional guy, but I did shed a tear as I drove my brand new, fully packed car out of the driveway and headed from Concord to Rancho Cucamonga, California. It wasn’t that I was sad to go, rather I had a rush of feelings for my friends and family, who had supported me in what many would consider a fruitless effort to become a broadcaster. There are lots of doubters out there, but not those who are close to me.

As fate would have it, I had the chance to come back home for work in 2004 and have stayed ever since. That led me to Charlotte. Though I did not attend school here, I had been on the campus many times for many reasons through the years. I grew up going to the Mine Shaft and to basketball camps and other campus events in my younger years, so I feel a small piece of ownership in the campus. I have seen it change though my more than 25 years in the region.

Today, we discussed briefly that two new coaches on the athletics staff took jobs at their alma mater to lead teams this season. Ed Schlichter and John Cullen are graduates of Charlotte and are now in charge of leading squads hopefully to conference titles now and in the future. Schlichter is a budding young coach, who was a tremendous athlete and assistant at Charlotte just a few years ago. He helped to get the cross country and track programs off the ground at USC Upstate, in nearby Spartanburg. I asked him on the air about coming back to the Niners, and his face gave a perceptible glow as he started to tell how great it was to come back and inherit a good program and his hopes for the future.

In a similar vein, Cullen, who played here from 1989 to 1992 (easily the best stretch of men’s soccer in the history of the program), comes back to campus after a very successful stint at the helm of the Catawba College women’s soccer program. He left campus after graduation in 1993 and I could see him imagining what campus looked like at that time when he was describing the feeling he got when coming back this past spring. He also brought in Sarah Denton to the staff, who graduated from Charlotte in 2001 and has head coaching experience at nearby Pfeiffer University.

The good thing for both of these coaches is that they inherit programs that are already successful and on the rise nationally. So look for the excellence to continue.

And you CAN go home again.

--Ryan Rose, Media Relations Office

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Q&A with Coach Cullen

The Charlotte 49ers Athletic Media Relations Department recently sat down with former 49ers men's soccer player and first-year head women’s soccer coach John Cullen to get his thoughts on the 49ers women's soccer program and the 2009 season. Last season, the 49ers captured their third straight Atlantic 10 regular-season championship and their second consecutive A-10 Tournament title and made the program's fourth NCAA Tournament. The 49ers blanked Tennessee, 2-0, in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament for a school-record 18th win. The 49ers begin the 2009 season at perennial NCAA Tournament participant William & Mary this Sunday, August 23 at 4 pm.

What does being a Charlotte 49er mean to you? Well it is a coming home for me even though I’m from England because of the immense pride that I have for the school. When I played here I never imagined that I would end up as a coach here. I enjoyed my four years of college soccer as a student-athlete here. Once I graduated from Charlotte, I experienced several avenues of coaching through college and club. I guess I always thought in the back of my mind that I would love to come back here one day. So to be able to come back here and lead the women’s program and to be the person that the administration has faith in is a great thing.
What are your thoughts on returning to your alma mater and the differences you have noticed? There is definitely a sense of comfort here for me as a lot of the professors, staff and administration are still here, which gives you a real support factor. In terms of the facilities there have been so many upgrades,. We want to be a national contender and you look at our field, our practice facility and our locker rooms and it’s an exciting year for Charlotte Soccer. When I stepped down on Transamerica Field to coach my first game in the spring season it just felt fantastic because it has that professional element to it as you look at the stadium and surroundings as a player and a coach you can’t really ask for anything more. So I’m excited to get in front of our own fans and hear them cheering us on and I know that the new players and the returning players are excited about this upcoming year of Charlotte soccer.
What are your thoughts on taking over a program that is the three-time defending A-10 Champions? I think some coaches would be fearful of walking into a program with such success and that is a definite challenge to take it further with even more success. There are already plenty of aspects in place but as every new coach I will want to put my own handprint on the team, but I have a great core of players that have experienced success and I will call upon them. Since I have such a solid foundation of players returning that gives me a great chance to succeed as a first-year coach.
What are your thoughts on the senior class of Hailey Beam, Lauren Brown and Leah Zappone? With Lauren Brown it is great to have a senior captain as our goalkeeper because it’s important to have experience and leadership in the goal to work with the defense. She is a very game-like player and very enthusiastic. She competes every time whether at training, practice or in games. Hailey Beam is a Hermann Award candidate, which is a reflection of her ability, but knowing Hailey it is much more than her natural all around game, she is a competitor and that's what drives her. Hailey has the gift to unlock defenses and she has the ability to create extraordinary opportunities for us. Just like Lauren in the back it’s nice to have Hailey up front in the attacking spectrum so that we have someone going forward to create those goals. She is a leader in the way she trains and works. Leah Zappone is a good role model for younger players by showing that there is a role for everybody on the team and you must be ready when called upon. Since Leah is a such a versatile player she adds depth to a number of positions on our team.
What are your expectations for the 2009 season? We want to play a certain way and we talked about that in the spring. We want to be a very pass-oriented team, but at the same time we want to be a team that is very difficult to play against. So on both sides of the ball when we do have the ball and when we don’t we want our style of play imposed upon our competition. For this coming season I want to see the players embrace that and maybe at that same time adapt in-game. I also want to see the new players come in and learn from the more established players about what it takes to be successful at the Division I level.
What are your thoughts on returning players that accounted for 60 of the team’s 69 goals last season? With Whitney Weinraub (the 2009 A-10 Offensive Player of the Year) we are going to move her around a little bit. Last year she played more in the wider areas, but we may look to put her more central to give her more touches closer to goal. Again we might use her in the wide areas to give her more one-on-one opportunities. So obviously we are expecting goals from her as well as Hailey and Sam Huecker (a second-team All-Atlantic 10 selection) from midfield as well as assists. We also have other players such as Macky Wingo who can score goals. Wingo missed a portion of last season because of injury. I think we can get goals from a variety of players which causes problems for our opponents since they can’t just focus on one or two players. We definitely feel as if we have goal producers on this team it just comes down to creating chances and then of course taking them.
What are your feelings on the midfield, which is spotlighted by Hailey Beam and Sam Huecker? Potentially the strength of our team as those two can really be effective as a combination. We are looking how we can use both of them working off each other and working with each other. They both are effective defensively and very dangerous going forward towards the goal. This spring I thought they were are two most consistent performers. We didn’t try to use them as a combination, but I believe we will try that this season to see if we can play them together and get the best out of both of them.
On the use of junior Danielle Mayeaux, a returning two-year starter? Danielle Mayeaux is a player that we are going to look at for our backline early in the season. She played there in the spring and had some strong games for us and obviously she is very dominant in the air. She has a good range of passing and works hard in the game so we like her attributes as a central defender and at the same time we know she can step into the midfield. With her at either position we know that we have a better team with Danielle on the field.
The 49ers defense recorded a school-record 13 shutouts and limited 16 foes to a goal or less last season. Charlotte returns a majority of the players that contributed to the 49ers stout defensive effort in 2008 which only allowed six goals in 11 A-10 regular-season games. What are thoughts on the defensive backline that features three-year starting goalkeeper Lauren Brown, All-Atlantic 10 performers Whitney Bryant and Megan Minnix as well as two-year starters Danielle Mayeaux and Katie Davies as well as Jenna McKeon who started on defense last season as a freshman? I think that is the pleasing part of this season because we have a good place to start with in regards to our defense. Some of the players mentioned will have to adapt to new roles. With Jenna McKeon we are looking at her to become a more attacking player. We are going to ask Megan Minnix and Whitney Bryant to get forward more and have Danielle Mayeaux stay back more to serve as a solid rock at the back with Katie Davies. But the backline is a group that we can hit the ground running with. I want them to continue with the not conceding goals mentality that is tough to play against. I was pleased with what I saw in the spring as we played six games and had four clean sheets, which is very encouraging as we move into the new season.
What are your thoughts on the goalkeepers? Lauren is obviously the focal point of the position but behind her we have Natalie LaVigne. Natalie has had a rough time since I arrived here as she hasn’t been able to get on the field much as she has had several setbacks with injuries, but we are hoping for a good bill of health. So that she can push herself and become an elite number two. Jessica Barton, who arrived here this spring, was able to train with the team this past spring. She had a very strong showing this spring so we definitely feel that we have quality depth behind Lauren and with all three we will be very solid in the goalkeeping area.
What are your thoughts on the 2009 schedule? Their are some programs on the slate such as William & Mary, Georgia and Villanova that are strong established soccer powerhouses so we are excited about those games especially with William & Mary as they will be an early test for us. Then we have a home stretch of three games followed by a local road game at Davidson. Overall I think each game presents its own challenge for us because we are going to play a new brand of soccer and we are going to change up the formation so there will be new roles for some of our players. Each game we will look to learn and garner something from it because at the end of the year we will be looking to contend for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament here in Charlotte.
Your thoughts on hosting the 2009 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship? Without stating the obvious we want to be in the tournament and obviously win the tournament, but who knows as anything can happen. There is definitely an excitement in the air that the A-10 Championship will be in Charlotte and at that time we want to be playing our best soccer in front of our own fans and get them an opportunity for a chance to cheer us on for a title.
What steps need to be taken to reach that next level of success? I think every program in the country asks themselves that question and I think the honest answer to that is a little bit of everything. I think when you look at those teams that are contending for a national title all of them find ways to win games even when they are playing . We have to make sure that when we are on top of our game and when we’re not getting a particular result that we are can utilize our team organization and teamwork to get a particular result that we desire. You also a need a touch of good fortune as you need your team to remain healthy, but ultimately it starts with leadership, which is where coaching comes into play by everyday improving the players. That is something I’m trying to teach the players is that everyday we can become a better player and a better team.
What can fans expect to see from a John Cullen coached team? Well I hope that when they come the first thing they say is that this is how a game should be played. I want them to look at the college game and say if my daughter wanted to play here or my young child was watching this is how soccer should be played. Players brave on the ball and everybody moving off the, looking to maintain possession and then obviously we would have a very high work rate as well. I’ve said to the players since day one that we have an obligation to continue to take this program forward, but we also have an obligation to show people how the game should be played. I want the players, spectators and fans to leave the stadium saying that tonight was an exciting soccer match and I want the fans to really see what our players are striving to do and this is how the game should be played at this level.

Next week we will preview the 2009 Charlotte 49ers men's soccer season with third-year head coach Jeremy Gunn.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hearts of Gold

Tomorrow, several 49ers student-athletes will assist the "Tools For Schools" program that the university has partnered with in an effort to collect school supplies for families that otherwise may not be able to afford it. A collection box has been outside the 49ers athletic department entrance and tomorrow student-athletes will be on hand to help deliver collected supplies to WSOC-TV studios, where they will help bring greater exposure to the cause.

I bring this up simply because this is the first of many community service projects the 49ers will be involved in this year. In September, the 49ers regularly host the 9/11 Blood Drive. In October, the 49ers volleyball team will spearhead "Dig Pink" to create awareness and raise money for breast cancer research.

In fact, 49ers student-athletes have already been at this year. I saw several soccer players volunteering with the FCCA Soccer Club, this summer, working with young kids and assisting at clinics.

Did you know, that over the course of last season 49ers student-athletes donated a school-record 2036.5 hours of community service. That equates to nearly 85 full 24-hour days (or nearly 3 full months) of donated time to the community. Last year, the projects included the blood drive, volleyball's focus on breast cancer awareness and youth clinics as well as the Toys for Tots campaign, Loaves and Fishes, Earth Day Campus Clean-up, visits to children's hospitals and reading in elementary schools.

The 49ers do this for a few reasons. It is important to give back to the community which supports it. It is important for college age kids to learn and experience the fortunes of doing good for others. And, everyone should get the chance to see a kid's face light up just because someone reached out to them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cardinals, Pirates and Vols. Oh My!

No worries my basketball brethren. Only 66 more days until the madness begins. When the men’s non-conference schedule came out last week I took a look. Looked some more. Put it down on my desk, walked away, came back, only to gander a while longer.

You know in sports, especially baseball, when players make a great play or do something extraordinary, players and coaches often give them a swift pat on the backside accompanied by a, “Nice job.” Coach Lutz and his staff deserve one of those.

Here is what to expect with this non conference schedule both home and away…

The Johnson C. Smith match up is practice. We talkin’ bout practice. But it’s your first official chance to catch this team in action for the new year. BTW, we average 104.7 points per exhibition the last three years. (Guelph, Ottawa, Pfeiffer)

Now to the ones that count toward our march to the field of 64. If 7ft 7in Kenny George was still playing basketball he would have been the tallest player to ever step inside Halton. He isn’t playing any longer and UNC Asheville will look to stifle the excitement of a new season with a big win against the Niners.

The Preseason NIT finally garners the Charlotte name when we head to Cameron Indoor in hopes of singing this tune…

Two teams stand in our way. The Elon Phoenix, a team formally known as the Fighting Christians and the winner of the Duke/Coastal Carolina game. A potential matchup with the Dookies would certainly excite the student body and alumni. A new 49er already has a past with the ACC rival (see pic) It would also attract ESPN/ESPN2 which means if you can’t make it to the game, Picassos University is surely the party spot.

The next pair of opponents take me back. Former CUSA rivals unite. East Carolina comes to Halton, we head to Louisville (pron. Loo-ah-ville) for a reunion with Pitino and company.

An ACC team comes to Halton, not Time Warner Cable Arena. Two years ago Georgia Tech beat the Niners down in the Virgin Islands. Now we get them on our turf.

Other great non-conference games include an easy road trip to Knoxville. Last time we met the Vols was the last NCAA Tournament win for the Niners. Rodney White led Charlotte to an opening round 70-63 win. But beware, if you do make the trip, I’ve heard they play this at nausea.

The full release is up on For ticket information call 704-687-4949.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Return of Charlotte's Top A-10 Performers

Charlotte’s fall sports student-athletes have finally arrived on our glorious campus here in the Queens City for preseason practice, training and the ever-so admired morning workouts. The preseason serves as a time for teams to return to top-playing shape, learn new plays and formations, bond together as a team and get to know some of the newcomers to the squad.

Last year’s preseason was obviously a great success as Charlotte claimed several conference awards as cross country, soccer and volleyball combined for 36 individual awards including a Player of the Year Award on each of the five teams. The fall teams also showcased their academic prowess in the autumn months as each team placed a student-athlete on the All-Academic team.

As an ode to the accomplishments of the 49er athletes here is a rundown of the returning First Team All-Conference performers for the upcoming fall season (in alphabetical order of course):

Hailey Beam: The women’s soccer teams first All-American since 2002 (Courtney Crandall), Hailey was the terror of the town for opposing teams at Transamerica Field. Her 17 goals, 13 assists and 47 points all lead the Atlantic 10 as she propelled Charlotte to a perfect 11-0 conference record and to the A-10 Tournament Title.

Her accomplishments on the field earned her numerous awards so here is a long list of some plaques she picked up: NSCAA and Soccer Buzz All-American, 1st team All-Atlantic 10, A-10 Midfielder of the Year, A-10 Student-Athlete of the Year and the A-10 Championship MVP. Her accomplishments on the field were matched by her achievements in the classroom as a Finance major by being tabbed as a NSCAA First Team Scholar All-American as well as being named to the A-10 All-Academic Team.

Hailey is expected to continue her success as a senior this year as Charlotte looks for their fourth straight regular season A-10 title, third straight A-10 tournament crown and third straight appearance in the College Cup.

Whitney Bryant: A stopper on the defensive end for the women’s soccer squad, Whitney led the way for Niner defense as she was selected to the A-10 First Team for her season that included an outstanding six assists to go along with a goal. Her presence on the defensive end helped to hold 49er opponents to only 1.13 goals per game and 13 shutouts.

Bryant’s best game on the season, scoring wise, was her three-point output against Saint Joseph’s in which she scored a goal and had an assist in a 8-0 domination of the Hawks. The junior started every game during her sophomore season.

Whitney B. and her fellow starting defenders from the’08 squad all return for the ’09 season where they will look to continue their dominance over opposing offenses.

Adu Dentamo: Moving over to men’s cross country we feature Adu Dentamo, who became Charlotte’s first-ever men’s conference individual champion, when he ran Charlotte’s A-10 championship 8k course in 24:01. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the metric system, Dentamo ran 26,246 feet or nearly five miles in a time span that is equivalent to an episode of Seinfeld (without the commercials).

Adu didn’t stop with being the best in the A-10 as he claimed All-Region honors at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Clemmons, N.C. His 14th place region finish was the highest men’s region placement since 2002 (Josh Baker, 9th). Dentamo barely missed qualifying for an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships.

The redshirt-senior, Dentamo will have an opportunity this year to become Charlotte’s first ever back-to-back cross country champion (that is if he isn’t beaten out by his female counterpart).

Amanda Goetschius: A native of the Garden State, Goetschius found a new home in 2008 in the Charlotte cross country record books. Goetschius claimed the A-10 crown for the women’s team as she ran her home course in 17:37 to become Charlotte’s second women’s conference champion ever. That was the second time of the season that Amanda won on Charlotte’s course as she led the pack at Charlotte’s Bojangles Invitational.

At the NCAA Southeast Regionals hosted by Wake Forest, Amanda took eighth place and claimed All-Region honors. Her time of 21:04 in the 6k race is the third-fastest time in Niner history. For her outstanding performance at the regional, Goetschius received an invitation to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., where she had the highest-finish for a 49er in nine years (Kelly Travis, 30th).

Amanda, only a junior, has ample opportunities to add more decorations to her new home as the Niners compete in five events prior to the A-10 Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

Keara Thomas: Fellow junior of the women’s cross country team, Keara took home 4th place at the A-10 Championship to garner All-Conference honors to help the Niners finish as runner-ups. Her time of 18:06 was her fastest of the season as she improved by three seconds and 24 spots from her finish at the 2007 A-10 meet. Following her top-five showing at the A-10, Thomas finished 44th at NCAA Region to help the Niners to a 9th place showing against the region’s top competition.

Keara’s highest finish of the ’08 season came in the Bojangles Invitational as she finished runner-up to Goetschius as the team took five of the top six positions (1, 2, 4, 5, 6) and dominated the competition.

Keara and her XC teammates will try to recreate their dominance at this year’s home event on Oct. 2 at the Charlotte Invitational in nearby McAlpine Park.

Whitney Weinraub: Finally, we come back to women’s soccer with the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, Whitney Weinraub. Whitney graced Niner Nation with her presence last year at Transamerica Field by scoring 10 of her 12 goals in front of the home crowd. An 8-0 whooping of Tennessee Tech on Aug. 31 was highlighted by Weinraub’s hat-trick, the first of her career.

Whitney W. was a 1st team All-Atlantic Ten selection to go along with her A-10 Off. POY honor as well as a 2nd team All-Southeast Region recipient. Her outstanding play as a forward for the Niners propelled them to their fourth NCAA College Cup appearance, where they advanced to the second round for the second time ever.

With the attacking prowess of Weinraub, Charlotte women’s soccer has a strong chance of scoring their own hat-trick with their third straight College Cup appearance and fifth in the program’s history.

That wraps it up for all of Charlotte’s returning 1st Team All-Conference selections. As always you keep it classy, Niner Nation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Opportunity for Advancement in 2009...

In this current economy, it becomes rare news to talk about anyone getting a promotion these days. But, several former Charlotte 49er baseball players have experienced promotion this summer as several guys have advanced through an additional level of professional baseball.

After an 8-0 run at Double-A Portland over the last almost two months, Adam Mills was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in the Boston Red Sox system. Though he was a postseason call-up to the International League club, where he pitched in the playoffs in 2008, he made his regular season Triple-A debut on Wednesday in Charlotte.

Mills’ First-Team All-Atlantic 10 pitcher and teammate, Spencer Steedley, also found success this season and was recently promoted. After a 4-0 start with six saves and his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance for Class-A Fort Myers of the Florida State League, Steedley was promoted to the Eastern League and New Britain in the Minnesota Twins organization.

After a long wait to start his 2009 season, former outfielder Brad McElroy headed back to the Gulf Coast League for six games before his promotion to the Florida State League’s Dunedin Blue Jays, where he hit the first home run for a former Niner this summer to tie the game in the seventh in an eventual win for his squad at Brevard County. He has an astounding .429 on-base percentage this season in his first 29 games for Dunedin. He is third on his team with just over a .300 batting average this season.

Former Niners shortstop Shayne Moody was in nearly the same boat as McElroy, having to wait for his assignment within the Atlanta Braves organization, but his patience paid off, earning a spot with the Rome Braves of the South Atlantic League, a level higher than he played last summer. He has played a lot of second base for the Braves, and has averaged nearly a hit per game in 2009.

Fans are awaiting advancements from the three other former Niners playing in the minors this summer. Pitcher Zach Rosenbaum and position players Aaron Bray and Rob Lyerly are still in the beginning stages of their pro careers, as they toil in the rookie leagues to improve and look for a move into full-season baseball next summer.

The pro off-season will be here as the fall semester begins at Charlotte, and that means baseball fans await the start of Charlotte’s spring season. This year, the NCAA schedule has added back a week to the front end, after dropping three weeks off of the traditional first weekend of February start time. Niners fans can return to Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium near the midpoint of February of 2010.

49ers Women’s Soccer Begins Quest For Fourth Straight A-10 Title Today
The Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer team, which has captured three straight Atlantic 10 regular season titles and two straight A-10 Tournament titles, starts practice today (Wednesday, August 12) in preparation for the 2009 season which begins on the road at William and Mary, Sunday, August 23 at 4 pm. Head Coach John Cullen, a former 49ers men’s soccer players, begins his first season at the helm of the highly successful 49ers women’s soccer program.
Since the women’s soccer program is starting practice today here are some interesting notes and tidbits about the program.

* John Cullen is only the fourth head coach in the history of the 49ers women’s soccer program. The three previous coaches (Robbie Church, Neil Roberts and Jon Lipsitz) each guided the 49ers to a league championship as well as an NCAA Tournament appearance.

* Cullen is only the fifth head coach at Charlotte since 1990 to be an alum of the University. Cullen, who graduated from Charlotte in 1992 with a degree in English, lettered for the 49ers men’s soccer team from 1989-92. Current 49ers men’s basketball coach Bobby Lutz as well as his predecessor Melvin Watkins were both UNC Charlotte graduates. Recently hired cross country coach Ed Schlichter was a former all-conference runner for the 49ers earlier this decade. Former 49ers standout men’s tennis player Stan Cocke coached the 49ers men’s tennis program for one season, 1992-93.

* The 49ers women’s soccer program has had eight ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans which is the fourth most Academic All-Americans for any women’s soccer program in the country. All eight of the 49ers Academic All-Americans have been since the 2003 season. Former 49ers Lindsey Beam Ozimek (2004-07) and Nikki Labuda Czaplicki (2004-06, 2008) earned multiple ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American honors. Senior midfielder Hailey Beam was a second-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American last season.

* The Atlantic 10 has only awarded the Midfielder of the Year award for two years and while two different people have claimed both awards reside in the same house. Ozimek was the first-ever A-10 Midfielder of the Year in 2007. While, Ozimek’s younger sister Hailey Beam claimed the honor last season.

* Perfection - the 49ers went a perfect 11-0-0 to claim their third consecutive A-10 regular-season title in 2008. This marked only the sixth time in the league’s history that a team posted an undefeated A-10 regular-season. Dayton went 11-0 twice in 2001 and 2004 which was the only other two times that a team went 11-0-0 in A-10 play.

* Charlotte has posted a 34-5-1 Atlantic 10 record in the four years that the 49ers have been a part of the A-10. Charlotte has been an impressive 28-2-1 in the Atlantic 10 over the past three seasons. Charlotte’s 34 Atlantic 10 wins in only four years has already surpassed Temple’s 31 All-time A-10 wins. St. Bonaventure has recorded 38 All-time Atlantic 10 wins. Temple and Saint Bonaventure have both been a part of Atlantic 10 women’s soccer since the 1993 season.
Don’t forget to catch the 49ers in their home opener against Appalachian State at Transamerica Field, Friday, August 28 at 7 pm.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It’s August. It’s warm. The air, like many an August day is still and heavy, even now in the morning hours. But, the players don’t seem to notice. At least they don’t seem to mind.

It’s the first day of practice. They feel light. Energized. Eager. It’s preseason and with it comes preseason hope, which makes those slight breezes that catch the stadium flags all that more refreshing.

Even though the first game day is still weeks away the excitement today is palpable. Several players came out to the field early, anxious to get the season underway. Others are just filtering in.

Balls fly through the air as the players start to loosen up. One player sprints down the sideline, trying to catch up to a long ball. Balls are zipped back and forth between players talking about the upcoming school year. They joke around, slapping shoulders.

From the top of the stands I can hear occasional shouts and break-out laughter. A set of camera people are gathered on the sidelines, near the water coolers that the training staff has set out.
It’s cool to watch to the balls fly through the air and see the players sprinting to and fro as they wait for the first practice to begin.

This isn’t a game day but fans are still on hand get a sneek peek at the upcoming season. They hang out in the stands with their coffees (me, with my Mountain Dew) and read a prospectus to try to learn the names and numbers.

The head coach and a couple assistants start to make their way from the office to the field. They stop for some small talk with a couple media guys and then join the players. More fist bumps and high fives as the team gathers together.

It always seems like a long wait for the start of a new season. This one particularly so. But now it is here.

The wait is over.

It’s August. It’s warm. And it’s the first day of practice.


You ready for some football !!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Norm's Top-5 Summer Highlights

Summer is almost over and I got to thinking…

When I look back on the summer of 2009, what will I remember? The economic downturn? Yes. Watching The Hangover four times in the movie theater? Yes. Rubbing my eyes as the US Soccer team was beating Brazil (2-0) in the Confederations Cup Final? Yep. The Bachelorette season finale? Not so much...

Join me as I countdown my Top-5 Niner highlights from the 2009 summer..

#5. For many businessman/woman summers in Charlotte just aren’t complete without fun times at Alive After Five at the EpiCentre after work on Thursdays. Anytime you can combine good food, good drink, good music and good people it’s a ‘good’ time. For the first time this summer the Niners made their presence felt at the after-work gathering as coaches and staff members convened on uptown hotspot to continually spread the work about Charlotte Athletics.

#4. Sometimes in sports the loser ultimately becomes the winner. Charlie Coley III lost the slam dunk contest in Detroit, but certainly caught the attention of many folks for if nothing else his insanely large head of hair. I always thought CC3 looked good in green. He is going to look even better in the red, white and blue. Getting drafted by the Harlem Globetrotters is quite an accomplishment. We will find out this fall if the man they call ‘go get it’ will be going to get a red, white and blue basketball instead of your run of the mill leather sphere.

#3. Baseball is a funny sport. The baseball first year player draft is a funny process. So many rounds, so many players, so many places to choose guys from. That’s why when a guy gets selected in the top six rounds it’s a truly special accomplishment. Atlantic 10 world-beater Rob Lyerly becomes the highest 49er to be drafted since John Maine, who other than a recent bout with injuries has had a very solid professional career. Lyerly was selected with the 195th pick and almost immediately signed and shipped up to Staten Island to play ball. Through 20 games he hasn’t hit any homers, but has seven RBI and 27 total bases. Lyerly was joined by Aaron Bray (Astros/27th rd) as the only two Niners to be selected in this years MLB draft.

#2. I hadn’t seen 5:30am in over four years. Typically when you roll out of bed in the morning some resemblance of the sun is suppose to greet you almost lifting you up out from the covers and straight to the coffee pot to start the brew process. Well, that WASN’T the case last week. But you know what, I didn’t mind it. An intimate gathering of 49er football fanatics parked themselves at Hendrick Acura off Independence Blvd. to rally and tailgate along with Wilson from Fox News Rising. I never knew Fox had a morning show, but again this goes back to my unfamiliarity with the pre dawn hours of the day. Though I was so jacked up I probably could have kicked the football through the oversized billboard goalposts we were rallying beneath. All morning long we cheered, chanted, ate, drank and even danced for 49er Football. Don’t believe me? Check out the vid.

#1. The headline could have read, “Former Charlotte golfer qualifies for 2009 US Open” and that would have been exciting enough. To watch a 49er compete at Bethpage Black against the best in the world was special enough. Then Trevor Murphy, member of the Niners 2006-07 NCAA 3rd place squad, goes out and fires a 2nd round (69) the included a birdie-birdie-birdie finish amidst the congenial New York faithful to make the cut and play on the weekend. (Due to rain delaying play, he actually finished his 2nd round on Saturday so technically played on the weekend, but work with me here.) Murphy’s weekend was less than desirable as he finished tied for 58th, but that one run in the 2nd had all the announcers gushing.
Thats the list. Golf at #1. Oh what a summer it was!
Honorable Mentions: Globetrotting Jon Busch makes presence felt in MLS and on US Soccer team, Lutz jumps to other side as member of media/color commentator on ESPN’s coverage of ASA softball, Tweeting. Follow me on twitter at @Charlotte49ers.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mills to AAA, Pitches in Charlotte Wednesday

Former Niner Adam Mills (Class of 2007), was this weekend, promoted to AAA Pawtucket. The PawSox begin a four-game series at the Charlotte Knights, and Mills is now slated to pitch on Wednesday.

Mills, who led the nation in ERA in 2007 with Charlotte, at 1.01 for the season, has won his last eight games, a team record, and nine of his last ten for his former team, Portland, of the Eastern League. He was the first Sea Dog to win six games in a month when we went 6-0 in July.

Mills was drafted by Boston in the eighth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft and was a consensus first-team All-American for the Niners. He leads all Charlotte pitchers in career wins, starts and shutouts.