In the final regular-season game, the Charlotte 49ers women's soccer team tied with Western Kentucky 1-1. However, the 49ers fought from behind to tying goal as the Conference USA (C-USA) tournament drew near.
The weather played a role in the game as the rain continued to fall throughout the contest. Even though the rain was fierce, the Charlotte faithful came out in force to support the squad.
"I certainly want to thank the crowd that came out, an amazing crowd for this time of the year," said Head Coach John Cullen. "You're talking about a Thursday evening school night, lots of little kids out here tonight. We thank them for being here tonight. The weather was miserable tonight, but it sped the game up a little bit,"
The Hilltoppers were undefeated on the road coming into the matchup, but the 49ers handed them their first non-victory forcing a draw. Charlotte sits at 7-5-3 overall and 3-2-3 in the conference, while Western Kentucky's record falls to 10-4-1 overall and 5-2-1 in the C-USA.
The 49ers were able to win the possession battle in the first half. However, the defense was stout throughout the half and kept the team in the contest. In the first half, Charlotte had possession of the ball 62% of the time.
Charlotte had some good offensive opportunities, but the team couldn't find the back of the net. Western Kentucky had strong goalkeeper play as graduate student goalkeeper Alexis Bach tallied seven saves on the night and kept the 49ers in check early on.
In the 26th minute, the Hilltoppers would get on the scoreboard first with an impressive shot. WKU's sophomore forward, Lily Summo, took the shot, which looked to be stopped by Charlotte fifth-year goalkeeper Abby Stapleton, but the wet weather helped the ball slide slowly into the goal after being deflected.
Charlotte couldn't put a goal on the board despite other scoring opportunities and trailed, going into half 1-0.
The second half saw much of the same, with both teams battling hard. Stapleton put her body on the line making multiple big defensive plays to keep Western Kentucky's lead at 1-0.
In the 79th minute, the 49ers finally cracked the scoreboard to tie the game. Junior midfielder Malina Pardo lined up for a corner kick and found senior defender Alyssa Moler for the score. Moler scored her first goal of the season and tied the game up at 1-1 with roughly 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
The game remained tied, which forced the contest into overtime.
The rain had subsided during the first overtime period, but neither offense could get anything going as both teams combined for a single shot. The defensive play of both sides kept the first overtime period reasonably uneventful.
In the second overtime period, the 49ers came out firing on all cylinders with three shots in four minutes. Midfielders Julia Patrum and Macey Bader gave the team a chance but were unable to finish due to the defensive presence of Bach. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, but the 49ers can take lessons learned from this hard-fought bout into conference tournament play.
Seniors say goodbye:
Moler tied the match up in the 80th minute, scoring her first career goal off Pardo's perfectly placed corner kick. Moler has great memories with the team, but the goal will be unforgettable.
"Scoring my first career goal is awesome. I didn't know how to react, it was so cool, and everyone was cheering for me. It was exciting to tie it up going down 1-0," said Moler.
Stapleton played her final home game for Charlotte after being the primary starter for the previous five seasons. She reflects on her time at Charlotte.
"There was a lot of emotions, I think, throughout the game," said Stapleton. "I was trying to not think too much about it, think about the game at hand, but now that it's finished, it's exciting. It was a good run."
The 49ers will travel to Boca Raton, Florida, to compete in the C-USA Championship. Charlotte will kickoff against the Florida Atlantic Owls on Monday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. on ESPN+.