As we enter a new calendar year and reflect upon Charlotte 49er Athletics to this point in the year, there is no denying that the future is exceedingly bright for a number of our programs.
Students and fans were treated to a men’s soccer team that made a magical run to the championship match of the NCAA’s College Cup this past December, the first championship game appearance by any team sport in the history of the school.
The 49er men (17-5-3) put four players on the College Cup All-Tournament team: Freshman forward Giuseppe Gentile, Senior defender Isaac Cowles, Senior defender Charles Rodriguez, and Junior midfielder Donnie Smith. Cowles was honored as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
This team produced more than fond memories of a great season but also produced three players that have been offered the chance to compete in the MLS. Senior midfielder was drafted with the first pick in the MLS’s supplemental draft by the newly created Montreal Impact. Rodriquez was selected in the third round of the supplemental draft by the DC United while Cowles was selected to join the Colorado Rapids for preseason training.
More success is to be expected as the Niners return their leading scorer (Gentile), third leading scorer (Junior forward Donnie Smith), goalkeeper Klay Davis and eight other players who played in at least 17 of Charlotte’s 25 games in 2011.
Such a successful season should garner greater attention for a program that will use the exposure to attract talent from all over the country. Recruits would become part of a club that is building a winning tradition in Charlotte.
The Niners are finding success on the hardwood as well where Men’s Head Basketball Coach Alan Major matched his win total from his first season with the 49ers with their tenth win of the 2011-2012 season Jan. 18 against Kennesaw State, with 12 games remaining in the regular season.
This much-improved team is anchored by forward Chris Braswell who is averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. However, the Niners have been getting huge contributions from their younger players. Freshman point guard Pierria Henry is fifth in the country in steals per game, and sophomore shooting guard DeMario Mayfield has started all 18 games this season, including a career-high 25 points in a victory over Kennesaw State.
Major clearly has an eye for young talent and is building a program that should soon see its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2005.
49ers baseball is set to begin practice Jan. 27 and the first pitch of the season is set for Feb. 17 at Hayes Stadium. The Niners were recently chosen by Atlantic 10 coaches as the favorites to claim their fifth A-10 Conference title in the past six seasons. Goals are set way beyond a conference title as Charlotte looks to make a repeat appearance in the NCAA tournament.
As the season nears, be on the look-out for a more comprehensive look at this year’s Niners baseball team.
Although 49er football isn’t set to kick-off until 2013, Brad Lambert and his staff are on the road building a football team that the campus of UNC Charlotte and its alumni can be proud of. Signing day is Wednesday, Feb.1st and Lambert already has a handful of commits for his first class.
There’s no question the 49er athletics have given us plenty to be proud of so far this year. As exciting as it’s been, the best is yet to come for this university. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Niner Nation.