Whatever mojo the Charlotte 49ers used last season to advance to the College Cup Final seems to still be working.
The fifth-ranked Charlotte 49ers (5-0-1) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-3-1), 3-2 in extra soccer for the fourth straight double overtime match at Transamerica Field.
“Incredible game of soccer,” said Charlotte 49ers head coach Kevin Langan, who remains undefeated as a collegiate head coach.
The first goal of the night would come off of a magnificent header from Jennings Rex – Charlotte 49ers senior forward – that was set up perfectly from Nick Barnhorst in the 19th minute.
Just 27 seconds after Rex’s tally, South Carolina capitalized on a penalty kick when Biko Bradnock-Brennan was called for a hand-ball in the box. This allowed for South Carolina junior midfielder Bradlee Baladez to equalize.
The 49ers would not answer back until the 66th minute, when Anthony Perez brilliantly sent a shot from 10 yards out, just getting past South Carolina keeper Alex Long.
Just like before, the Gamecocks relied on Baladez to score another equalizer in the 74th minute. This time, it was a five yard shot into the lower left corner of the net.
“We would take the lead then South Carolina got back in it,” said Langan.
“Then, we took the lead again and South Carolina tied it again. In the second overtime, Donnie Smith picked the ball up at midfield and drove it down the field and did what he does. He connected on a beautiful left-footed shot that went off the post. This was a game played between two very good teams. We are delighted to get the win.”
The winning goal came in the 107th minute off of a Giuseppe Gentile pass at midfield. Smith then drove toward the left corner of the box and drilled a shot from about 18 yards out that banged off the right post and into the back of the net.
Smith has scored two goals in six games this season.
Charlotte outshot South Carolina 21-11 and also held a 12-5 advantage in corner kicks.
Both Gentile and Rex led Charlotte with five shots on goal, followed by Smith with three. Both Tyler Gibson and Aidan Kirkbride finished with two shots.
South Carolina keeper Long finished the night with seven saves, while Charlotte 49ers keeper Klay Davis finished with four saves – two of which were remarkable saves in the first overtime period, keeping Charlotte in the game.
A total of 2,872 were in attendance for Wednesday night’s match, making it the largest regular season crowd in the history of Transamerica Field. Wednesday night’s attendance also brought the average home attendance to 2,052 in four games this season.
Charlotte will now prepare for a five-game road trip, beginning with a match this Saturday at UNC Greensboro, and will feature two games with Atlantic 10 conference rivals Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond.
The 49ers will return to Transamerica Field on Friday, Oct. 12, in a match with Fordham slated for 7 p.m.