Year in review – A lot happened over the past year in Charlotte sports, take a look back at some of the top moments for 2017-18

The 2017-18 year flew by, take a minute and look back at some of the top moments from this year.

Women’s golf tees off for the first time

The 2017 women’s golf team photo. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Athletics

The team was added to the lineup in an effort to offer more women’s athletics after football was brought in. Coach Holly Clark started laying the foundation for the team back in 2015. Starting up a team was not a cake walk for Clark.

“It was harder than I thought it would be. I think it’s super exciting that there’s something new and something great and wonderful about being a part of something that hasn’t ever been here before,” Clark said. “I love the challenge, I love that opportunity.”

One element that helped the team throughout their inaugural season was the comradery displayed by the players.

“This is a tight-knit group who was really close before they even got here. That’s really special and unique in itself. Team chemistry is so important in your success and I think it’s critical in the growth as they continue to develop and move forward,” Clark said.

The team finished ninth in the Conference USA tournament and Ellinor Sudow tied for 11th place out of a field of 60 players.

Football finally wins on Homecoming

Really the only bright spot in the Charlotte 49ers football season, the team finally brought home a win on Homecoming.

The Niners squared off against UAB and the Blazers dominated in the first half going up 14-0 before the intermission. They then tacked on another three points to create a 17-point deficit.

A fumble recovered by Charlotte’s own Alex Highsmith set the 49ers up for a nine yard rush by Hasaan Klugh to get the Niners on the board. The next possession Klugh connected with receiver Trent Bostick 68 yards downfield for another TD, bringing the score to 17-14.

The 49ers celebrate after winning their first homecoming game in a nail biting overtime. Photo by Chris Crews.

Around the 10-minute mark Ben DeLuca recovered a fumble for the 49ers and returned it 26 yards inside the red zone. Nigel Macauely evened the score with a field goal from the six-yard line. UAB received the ball first in overtime and broke through the Charlotte defense for a touchdown, creating a 24-17 game.

Klugh led the charge when it was Charlotte’s turn, rushing for 15 yards, completing a three-yard pass, and then rushing again for the TD. With the score at 24-23, coach Brad Lambert decided to go for the win on the two-point conversion. Chris Montgomery threw the pass into the hands of Klugh to successfully convert the two points and give Charlotte their first victory of the season.

Women’s soccer drops C-USA Championship in PK’s

The Charlotte women’s soccer team found themselves once again in the C-USA Championship game. After going to penalty kicks last year, this year’s game wasn’t a new scenario for the 49ers but unfortunately this year the team was on the losing side.

The 49ers entered the tournament as the eighth seed and went up against the two seed North Texas. The Niners have never defeated the Mean Green in their seven match up.

Virginia Lingo protects the ball. Photo by Chris Crews

C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Martha Thomas was sidelined for the majority of the game with an injury, which allowed new heroes to emerge for the team. All-conference freshman team member Abby Stapleton recorded seven saves throughout the match.

Neither team registered a goal during regulation or overtime, leading to the PK’s. The team then fell to the Mean Green in the shoot out, ending their season.

Yumi Garcia breaks school dig record

Yumi Garcia played her first season with the 49ers this past year and is already breaking records.

Yumi Garcia preparing to make a stand on defense. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

At the beginning of the season, coach Karen Weatherington made each player write a personal goal for the year. Garcia had big plans for herself and said she would break the 49ers record for digs in a single season.

She accomplished that goal with her 19 digs in their match against UTSA late in the season, giving her 589 digs on the season. She surpassed Carly Romberg’s 571 digs back in 2008.

With Garcia and her teammate’s efforts, they turned around from their 7-23 record last season and earned a spot in the Conference USA tournament and finished the season with a winning record, 19-12.

Men’s soccer falls 1-0 to ODU in C-USA Championship

The men’s soccer team only allowed two goals during the conference tournament, but one of those came in the championship game. The 49ers were unable to respond, leading to a 1-0 loss to ODU in the title match.

Daniel Bruce celebrates during the Winthrop game. Photo by Chris Crews

The Niners out-shot the Monarchs 8-7 but to no avail. Ryan Spaulding took the best shot for the 49ers in the match, hitting one right off the crossbar, but the ODU goalkeeper just got a hand on the ball to deflect it.

Teddy Chaouche, Tommy Maden and Marco Sunol-Rojas all earned All-Tournament team honors.

The team improved from last year when they were eliminated in the first round of the tournament. This was the farthest the 49ers have advanced in the tourney sinc e they won it all in 2013.

Women’s cross country wins title

The women’s cross country team collected the program’s fourth conference championship and the first since they went on a three-year winning streak from 1992-94. The team was lead by All-American Caroline Sang, who also won the individual championship title.

The women’s team celebrating with their trophies after their conference victory. Photo courtesy Charlotte Athletics

“The first team meeting of the year we talked about having that expectation of winning the conference championship and performing day in and out at that mindset and that level. Going in, both teams knew they had a shot at winning. The guys gave it everything we had, on the ladies side we were aggressive and took control of the race right from the beginning,” coach Joseph Lynn said.

Sang recorded at time of 16:27.9, which is the fasted 5K time in school history by almost thirty seconds and is the third fastest time in a C-USA Championship.

Lambert retained, others fired after 1-11 season

After their dismal one-win season, many were expecting head coach Brad Lambert to be relieved from his duties. To much surprise, it was announced after the team’s final loss that Lambert would be retained, but others on the coach staff would be fired.

Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert on the sidelines. Photo by Chris Crews

Among those that parted ways with the team were defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen and receivers coach Damien Gary. Greg Adkins, who took Mullen’s previous job as offensive coordinator midway through the season, initially returned to coaching the offensive line, but left the team in February for a position at Marshall.

Lambert has since filled those voids. Shane Montgomery will serve as the team’s offensive coordinator, Glenn Spencer and Chip West will split the duties as defensive coordinator for the team. West will also serve as the linebackers coach for the 49ers.

James Adams, who was a secondary coach last season will oversee the safeties next year and Brad Queen who was the defensive line assistant previously, now will coach the defensive tackles.

Charlie Skalaski will continue to be the special teams coordinator while also coaching the receivers. Finally Chris Scelfo was brought on as the offensive line coach.

Price fired after 3-6 start

In another shocking move, it was announced in early December that Mark Price was out as the men’s basketball coach after a 3-6 start. During his time with the 49ers, Price had a 30-42 record and was 16-20 in conference play.

The decision came as a shock to Price, who told the Charlotte Observer that he was “stunned.”

Coach Mark Price leaves the court after playing USC Upstate last season. NT File Photot

The coaching change also caused to Price’s son Hudson to leave the team as well.

Assistant coach Houston Fancher stepped in as the interim head coach. Though Fancher spent nine years as the head coach for Appalachain State, the 49ers never fell into a groove and ended the season 6-23. Charlotte only collected three more wins after Price’s departure.

Judy Rose announced her retirement

After questionable decisions with football and basketball coaches, an upcry came on Twitter for Rose’s dismissal. The long-time Athletic Director announced in early January that she would be retiring after the conclusion of the 2017-18 athletic year.

Charlotte 49ers Athletic Director Judy Rose. Photo by Chris Crews

This year marked her 43rd year with Charlotte and her 28th as Athletic Director.

When Rose was named as the AD for the program, she was only the third woman to hold the position in a Division I school. Rose oversaw the addition of seven new sports, multiple NCAA tournament berths for men’s basketball, WNIT appearances for the women’s program and successes in the men’s and women’s soccer programs.

In her statement Rose said, “This is a difficult announcement to make, with the love I have for the university and the athletic program.”

First former 49er competed in the Olympics

Briauna Jones made history for Charlotte Athletics as she became the first former student-athlete to participate in the Olympics as a member of the women’s bobsled team for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Briauna Jones will travel to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics

After a stellar career on the track for the 49ers, including making it to the National Championship for the 2012 4×100 meter relay team, she returned as a volunteer assistant coach for the team.

Last year Jones received the honor of being the USA Bob Sledding Rookie of the Year after making her first national team. She also collected a gold medal with teammate Meyers Taylor in Switzerland last year.

Men’s basketball snaps 15-game losing streak in senior night win

After defeating North Texas in the Jan. 4 contest, the Charlotte men’s basketball team would not have another victory until their senior night win against Florida Atlantic.

That game was the first 49er home win since the Nov. 24 70-67 victory over High Point.

The team defeated FAU 85-78, being led by double figure performances from Jon Davis, Austin Ajukwa and Andrien White. The game marked the final game for seniors Ajukwa and Corey Bias.

The men’s team breaks a huddle against Wake Forest. Photo by Chris Crews

Even though the 49ers had no shot of making the conference tournament, the game was still valuable for the team.

“If tonight is not an indicator that these kids have never given up all season then I don’t know what is,” interim head coach Houston Fancher said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We talked about this before the game, and if anyone had said to me that this game didn’t matter then I might have slapped them across the face because this game meant everything to us tonight.”

Women’s basketball falls in the first round of C-USA tourney

Amaya Ransom charges forward on the court. Photo by Chris Crews

After finishing 10-5 in conference play, the team qualified for the conference tournament as the sixth seed. They fell 58-55 to 11-seed North Texas.

Senior Amaya Ransom ended her time as a 49er with 18 points, 12 of which came from behind the arc. Laia Raventos earned All-conference first team and All-Conference defensive teamster her 13 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

A 6-0 run in the first quarter lifted North Texas to a 14-12 lead after the initial frame. The Mean Green kept that tempo with a 9-2 run and another 6-0 run and then ended the half with a 7-0 run to bring the score to 36-25.

In the third quarter North Texas extended their lead to 14 points. Charlotte fought back and cut the deficit to six, 48-42, heading to the final quarter.

The 49ers got within two points, but that was the closest they would get.

“You can’t play 20 minutes and think you’re going to beat teams in this league. They’re too good,” head coach Cara Consuegra said.

Mike Hill hired as 49ers new AD

The search for a new Athletic Director led Chancellor Phil Dubois to Mike Hill.

Hill comes to the Queen City after spending over 20 years at the University of Florida as the Executive Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs. Hill, a graduate of UNC, is grew up in Clemson, S.C.

Mike Hill and Chancellor Philip DuBois after the introductory press conference. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics.

Dubois is excited about what Hill can bring to campus with his experiences at an SEC school.

“If you’ve worked in a big athletic department with a budget many times larger than ours and you have very sophisticated understanding of collegiate athletics, that’s an experience you can bring to the table when you come to Charlotte and help Charlotte grow into being a larger and more significant program,” Dubois said.

As where he sees Charlotte going in the future, Hill said he doesn’t want to “put a ceiling on what we have as a vision for this place.”

Hill hires Ron Sanchez for new men’s basketball coach

The first major decision new AD Mike Hill made was filling the vacancy of the men’s basketball coach with Ron Sanchez.

Athletic Director Mike Hill, MBB Head Coach Ron Sanchez, Chancellor Phil Dubois smile for a photo after Sanchez’s introductory press conference. Photo by Chris Crews

Sanchez has worked as an assistant coach for nationally-ranked Virginia for the past nine years, serving as an associate head coach for the past three years. He has worked under two-time National Coach of the Year Tony Bennett both at Virginia and at Washington State.

Sanchez has brought on two assistant coaches to help rebuild the 49ers. Katie Kimble and Vic Sfera. Kimble spent the last seven years serving as an assistant coach at William and Mary. Sfera worked previously with Sanchez at the University of Virginia and spent the last two years as an assistant coach at Liberty University.

The staff has started getting commits from recruits and is looking to improve on the team’s dismal 6-23 record last season.

Charlotte baseball adopts a child

Eight year old Xavier Clafee, who is battling a rare form of heart disease, was adopted by the Charlotte baseball program earlier in the season.

Jackson Mims and Xavier Clafee stretch before practice. Photo by Chris Crews

49ers coach Loren Hibbs said that having Clafee around sets a good example for his players.

“I think we all realize and we all understand that we are blessed to be able to be out here and be able to do what we’re doing,” Hibbs said. “When a young man like Xavier comes around here and gets a chance to be in our program and see and hear the struggles that he’s had in his very short lifetime in the eight years he’s been on this earth, it makes you appreciate everything.”

Clafee has an open invitation for any 49er baseball activity.

 

Read more here: http://ninertimes.com/2018/04/year-in-review/
Copyright 2018