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Deja Vu: UAB falls to Charlotte
For second straight year 49ers beat the Blazers in their the men’s soccer NCAA tournament opener
For the second time in as many years, the UAB Men’s Soccer team (10-8-2) saw their NCAA Championship dream lambasted as the Charlotte 49ers (15-3-3) defeated the UAB Blazers 3-2 Thursday night at Transamerica Field in Charlotte, NC.
Last season, the Blazers were able to make it to the second round of the NCAA tournament where they were first bested by the 49ers 3-1 at West Campus field in Birmingham, Ala. In that contest, the 49ers scored their first goal in the opening minute of the first half with two additional goals within the first five minutes of the second half. The Blazers responded quickly with a solid goal but after several blocked shots, that lone goal would be UAB’s only point scored in the match. Charlotte continued on in that tournament advancing all the way to the national championship game, but fell short of the title against North Carolina 1-0 at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
This season’s match began with Charlotte wasting no time getting on the board as one of their senior forwards, Jennings Rex, converted a pair of corner kicks in the 7th and 29th minutes of game closing the first half 0-2.
“At halftime, we talked about the fact that we were down, but we were going to have to score somewhere to have a chance to get back in this game,” said head coach Mike Getman.
The Blazers would reap the benefit of a Charlotte penalty in the 50th minute of the match, but the excitement from that score would last only a moment as the 49ers scored their third goal two minutes later when one of their forwards sent a lightning strike into the box from ten yards out which crashed into the back of the net rendering a reminiscent score of 3-1.
With time running out, the Blazers, unwilling to surrender, worked their way back down the field with junior Chase Wickham sliding a short pass to sophomore Diego Navarette who managed to slip past several defenders as he made his way to the back of the net with the ball cutting the 49ers lead to just one goal, but unfortunately for the Blazers, that’s where the game ended.
“I thought our guys did a great job to create the opportunity to get that goal back, and the momentum changed completely. We were still losing, but we started to control how the game was played. We started to move the ball a whole lot better, and I certainly thought it was a very good game. Obviously I am disappointed with the result,” Getman went on to say. “When you give up two goals to a team of their quality early in the match, it’s obviously going to be a struggle. Our guys fought back in the second half, got an early goal back, put a lot of pressure on them, but it’s a difficult battle to come back from two early goals.”
Several of the UAB Men’s soccer team members played their final game as Blazers Thursday night. Co-captains Kofi Gyawu and Reed Matte as well as Milan Milinkovic and Mladen Lemez, all seniors, have been invaluable assets to the Blazers over the past four seasons and even though we know they have to move on, many will hate to see them leave.
“These four seniors have given so much,” Getman said. Even though we came out on the wrong end today, I was really proud of them and the way they battled. They’ve been great leaders for us, not just this year, but for all four years. They’re great kids, great students, and I think they’re exactly what we want UAB student-athletes to be. It always hurts on the last game, especially the seniors, but I think they’ve done all of us proud.”