It was quite a scene today in Alabama, where Charlotte lost 1-0 to North Carolina in the national championship for men's soccer.
Like a whole lot of other people from Charlotte, I made the 400-mile trek down to Hoover, Ala. (just outside of Birmingham) to watch the 49ers try to win their first-ever national championship in a team sport. And although they fell short, they certainly won the crowd battle and played a really good game despite the loss.
"We were first in almost every category but the one that wins the game," said Charlotte coach Jeremy Gunn, whose team outshot the Tar Heels 19-10 and earned six corner kicks compared to North Carolina’s two. "That’s the cruel part of soccer."
One thing I really liked: When the game concluded, the Charlotte soccer players walked en masse toward their fans.
Rather than sulking in their misery, the Charlotte players strode toward their fans and applauded them. The fans, in turn, gave the players a standing ovation for a dream season that included five straight victories in the NCAA tournament but fell one win short of a championship.
Thanks to six busloads of Charlotte students and untold numbers of others making the six-hour drive from Charlotte, the 49ers probably had 7,000 fans among the 8,777 in attendance.
"It was phenomenal," Charlotte defender Isaac Cowles said. "I couldn’t even hear a Carolina fan. All I heard was Charlotte."
Many of those 49er students will take final exams Monday. I talked to one who had two final exams scheduled Monday, had attended the Charlotte-Davidson basketball game Saturday night and still made the 400-mile trip to Alabama Sunday. There were many others just like her. It was cool to see all of the support and to watch both teams play a taut, entertaining game.
My column on the game will be in Monday's newspaper and online, and Observer soccer expert David Scott will also have a couple of stories about it.