Charlotte's women's soccer team finds itself in the Conference USA Championship game after two big upsets against North Texas and Western Kentucky this week.
The 49ers beat North Texas 1-0 Tuesday and then Western Kentucky 2-0 on Thursday. The biggest challenge will come on Saturday, April 17, as Charlotte will face #25 ranked Rice in the women's soccer championship game. Start time is at 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.
Before the two teams battle for an NCAA tournament berth, let's see how they arrived at this point.
The Rice Owls are one of the best overall teams in C-USA throughout this season and are currently ranked #25 in the nation. They come into the game with an 11-2-1 overall record and 5-1 in the conference. Their lone loss in C-USA came against North Texas by a score of 1-2. The 49ers beat North Texas in the quarterfinals, 1-0.
The Owls also have a marquee win that came against then #12 Texas A&M back in March.
Charlotte will have their hands full with the Owls as they have been a force on the offensive side of the ball. They have scored 32 goals this season and only allowed nine. Mikala Furuto, a freshman, leads the team in goals with five goals and has four assists.
Rice beat Old Dominion 3-0 and Southern Mississippi off penalty kicks to get the championship and meet Charlotte in the postseason for the first time since 2017, where the 49ers won 1-0.
The 49ers come into the championship game with a 6-5 overall record and are 4-2 in C-USA play. It's been an overall up and down year for the 49ers. After a slew of cancellations to start the season, Charlotte dropped their first two games of the season. After picking up their first win on Feb. 26, the team went 3-3 and lost to Western Kentucky 0-1 to end the regular season.
Despite a roller coaster of the season, Charlotte has put things together in the postseason. With a win against North Texas and a revenge win versus WKU, the young squad has learned from their mistakes repeatedly. The perfect blend of defense and offense has helped the 49ers succeed. They have not allowed one goal all tournament and only have scored three. Haley Shand, who only scored one goal in the regular season, scored the lone goal in the North Texas game for Charlotte. Piper Biziorek and Michaella Arteta scored for the 49ers. Goalkeeper Abby Stapleton has been another key player with six saves throughout the last two games.
The road hasn't been easy for the 49ers, but the stage is set for their first C-USA championship since 2016. The two-game run has been without star player Julia Patrum, who is tied for first in goals on the team with four.
Charlotte will need to come together as a team as they already have this tournament if they want that coveted NCAA tournament berth.