Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Madness Capped Off With The Men’s Soccer Programs Return To the NCAAs

Fans of college basketball are familiar with the phrase “March Madness”. Well around the 49ers athletic department this month is November Madness. Charlotte hosted the A-10 Women’s Soccer Tournament the first weekend in November. The highly successful 49ers women’s soccer program reached their third straight A-10 Championship game. Then, the following weekend (November 13), the 49ers men’s basketball program defeated UNC Asheville in their regular-season home opener; while, the 49ers concluded their regular-season at home against Temple. The defending A-10 Champion 49ers women’s basketball team tips off their regular-season on the road at East Carolina last weekend as well.

While, the 49ers basketball programs continue to play non-conference games this month. This weekend, the 49ers volleyball team will attempt to claim their first A-10 Tournament title in Dayton.

This brings me to one of the most exciting events this month for the 49ers athletic department. Charlotte’s nationally-ranked men’s soccer team returns to the NCAA Tournament after a 12-year hiatus when they host UNC Wilmington in the first round, Thursday, November 19 at 7 pm.

Charlotte’s men’s soccer program made regular appearances in the NCAA Tournament in the 90’s with five appearances in a seven-year period from 1991-97. In 1996, Charlotte won three games and advanced to the College Cup. Charlotte’s NCAA Tournament game against UNC Wilmington this Thursday, will mark the 49ers first NCAA Tournament home game since the 49ers defeated Hartford, 3-0, to advance to the College Cup, December 8, 1996.

When the 49ers face UNC Wilmington in the NCAA Tournament, the game will remind long-time 49ers men’s soccer fans of Charlotte’s first NCAA Tournament team. UNC Wilmington is coached by 49ers men’s soccer standout Aidan Heaney, who had his jersey retired in 2002. Heaney, an All-Metro Conference and NSCAA All-South Region selection in 1991, was Metro Defensive Player of the Year that year. Heaney still holds the school record for single-season and career goals against average as well as single-season and career shutouts records.

Charlotte women’s soccer coach John Cullen has ties to both the Charlotte 49ers and UNC Wilmington teams. Cullen played for the 49ers on their first two NCAA Tournament teams in 1991 and 1992. Cullen was a teammate on the 1991 team with Heaney. Cullen gives his thoughts on the 49ers return to the NCAA Tournament and former teammate Heaney.

“It was great thrill and honor to represent the school on the national stage,” Cullen said. “As a former player those were great days. I am excited to see the program back on the elite level. Congratulations to the Jeremy Gunn and the rest of the coaching staff and the players for reaching the NCAA Tournament. I am also proud of a former teammate and friend Aidan Heaney for how well he has done at UNC Wilmington. As a former player it is exciting to see our program return to the national stage.”

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