Charlotte tops 2010 champion Akron
Strong defense helps 49ers hold up Gentile’s first-half goal
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Behind freshman Giuseppe Gentile's goal in the 25th minute, Charlotte defeated Akron 1-0 in the third round of the NCAA tournament Sunday night at Transamerica Field. The Niners (16-4-2) advance to the national quarterfinals for the first time since 1996, and will face Connecticut on the road.
The 2010 national champion Zips concluded their season with a 15-4-4 record.
"We had an unbelievable crowd and atmosphere for soccer tonight," head coach Jeremy Gunn said. "It was a great honor for our players to compete against a program like Akron. We had to be a tight defensive unit and that's how we came out, making it frustrating for our opponents. These players have been preparing for a long time, and now all the foundations are there."
Gentile's goal came 24:09 into the first half, when the freshman forward collected a pass from junior Jennings Rex and beat the Akron keeper with a shot into the upper right part of the net. The goal was the first Akron had allowed in the first half all season.
For the rest of the match, Charlotte managed to play outstanding defense while still putting together strong offensive possessions.
Charlotte keeper Klay Davis made his first save in the 62nd minute, a crucial punch away on a shot by Scott Caldwell that preserved his team's lead. Less than a minute later, Davis made a second important stop on an attempt by Akron's Darren Mattocks.
The Niners had two solid opportunities to extend their lead in the second half. Evan James almost made it a two-goal game in the 74th minute, but Akron's David Meves made a diving save to his left to keep the Zips in it. Then, in the 81st minute, Gentile rocketed a shot on goal, but Meves was there again to make the save.
The 49ers defense was largely responsible for the shutout, blocking an impressive seven of the Zips' 11 shots in the match. Charles Rodriguez had a particularly brilliant blocked shot late in the game, stopping Caldwell's attempt in the box in the 85th minute for a team save.
It was just the fourth time all season Akron was held scoreless.
The Zips held an 11-6 lead in shots, including a 7-3 second-half flurry. Akron also led 7-4 in corners, with four coming in the second frame. James and Gentile paced the Niners in shot attempts with two apiece, while Mattocks and Caldwell led the Zips with three each.
Davis made two stops in goal for the 49ers in his eighth clean sheet of the season. He picked up his 16th victory of the year and ninth at Transamerica Field.
Meves made three stops between the pipes for the Zips.