Tyler Gibson set the ball at the mark inside the box. He waited for the referee’s signal, ran up, and confidently kicked it into the net past the diving goalkeeper.
Not the first time he’s done it this year, or in his career, for that matter.
Yet another clutch penalty kick by Gibson with 2:32 left in regulation stood up for the Charlotte 49ers, as they defeated the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 1-0 at Transamerica Field to clinch the 2013 Conference USA men’s soccer championship. They’ve now won eight in a row and head into the NCAA Tournament full of momentum.
This game should have been over much earlier, though. A host of chances by both sides–two near misses by Giuseppe Gentile in the first half and a flurry of activity in the box by Tulsa in the second half among them–all came up empty.
But for a team that had been getting it done with offense late in the season, it was the defense coming up strong for Charlotte. Defenders weathered whatever the Tulsa attack brought them, with Klay Davis standing strong in net when tested.
It wasn’t until the 88th minute that the game’s first (and only goal) would be scored. After a Tulsa foul in the box awarded a penalty to the Niners, Gibson would strike it past an outstretched Jake McGuire to put his side up 1-0 and set off a massive celebration among the home fans.
Gentile earned the tournament’s offensive MVP by leading all scorers during the week with two goals. Thomas Allen was named the defensive MVP as the Niners D conceded zero goals to their opponents throughout the tournament, with an own goal the only blemish.
The Niners wait until the selection show tomorrow at noon to find out their first opponent in the NCAA tournament. They’re all but assured to begin at home for the third straight year, date and time to be determined.