The Charlotte 49ers have moved on to Conference USA’s championship Sunday. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane will be there along with them.
Behind a first half goal by Brandt Bronico and another strong showing in net by Klay Davis, the sixth-seeded Niners held off the seventh-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, 1-0, in the second semifinal match of the evening. They’ll take on the fifth-seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane in Sunday’s final; Tulsa stunned the top-seeded New Mexico Lobos by a score of 3-0.
Charlotte needed only one goal to win this one, and it came off the foot of their freshman midfielder. Hans Honer found his classmate on a counterattack, and the High Point native broke toward the net and knocked it past Wildcats netminder Callum Irving for the lone tally. Charlotte would then have to withstand Kentucky’s attack throughout the second half but wouldn’t surrender the equalizer–helped by Davis’s six saves in the final frame by their senior keeper.
The match would get a little chippy late as the emotion of what could possibly have been their final game got to Kentucky. Three different Wildcats were shown yellow cards in the final 21 minutes. Teams combined for 17 second-half fouls.
But in the end, the Niners, who are on a seven-game winning streak (matching their longest since last season), came out on top–and are now one win away from finally being able to hoist a conference championship trophy on their home field. They’ll have to take care of a resurgent Tulsa team to do it, though.
Tulsa 3, New Mexico 0
Fatigue may have gotten to the top-seeded Lobos, as they surrendered a pair of first-half goals en route to a disappointing showing in their first C-USA tournament.
The scoring began with a Quinton Duncan goal (23′) that caromed off the crossbar and into the net. Just 2:03 later, Michael Lisch found himself beaten once more as Tony Rocha drove one in to make it 2-0. Omar Mata completed the scoring on a penalty (50′) that came after a handball in the box by a Lobos defender.
Jake McGuire turned aside seven New Mexico shots in the win. Lisch was forced to make six stops of his own.