Tulsa's bid for its fifth Conference USA Men's Soccer title fell short as the host Charlotte 49ers claimed a 1-0 victory on Sunday afternoon at Transamerica Field. Charlotte (12-5-3), the sixth-seed in the tournament, received C-USA's automatic bid with the victory, while the fifth-seeded Hurricane (11-6-3) will find out its NCAA future on Monday when the Championship field will be announced.
After a questionable penalty call against Tulsa freshman Cameron Drackett, Charlotte's Tyler Gibson took the penalty kick with 2:32 remaining in regulation. The Charlotte senior knocked the ball into the right side of the net out of the outstretched arms of Tulsa goalkeeper Jake McGuire at the 87:28 minute mark.
Tulsa's Christian Mata had a chance to knot the score at 1-1 as the Charlotte goalkeeper Klay Davis found himself out of the net, but Mata's strike went over the goal.
After scoring three goals in each of its first two C-USA tournament contests, the Hurricane was held scoreless in the 90 minutes on Sunday. It was Charlotte's third straight one-goal victory during the league tournament.
For the game, Charlotte had 13 shots, including five on goal, while the Hurricane had 11 shots and two shots-on-goal. Mata and Abe Matamoros had Tulsa's two shots-on-goal, as Mata had five total shots. Charlotte's Giuseppe Gentile, who gave the Hurricane fits in the first half and had a total of five shots and two on-goal, was shut down by Tulsa in the second half.
"We came out flat to start the game, and some of that was certainly fatigue from playing three games in five days. They were winning a lot of balls in the field and doing a decent job at picking up second balls and possessing it. We couldn't really get the ball and keep it for nearly enough time in the first half," Tulsa coach Tom McIntosh said.
"In the second half we made a change. We went with more three center midfield players. We put Dillon (Alexander) in the lineup and he did a great job," McIntosh said. "We felt that we had taken control most of the second half, and felt good about it. It was just unfortunate that we got the PK call. I thought overall that our second half performance was very good."
As for Tulsa's chances to appear in the school's ninth NCAA Championship, McIntosh knows it's not guaranteed.
"It's tough. There's no question I believe we should be in the NCAA tournament, but our RPI is not great," McIntosh said. "If the committee puts the best 48 teams in the tournament, then we'll be in it. But, if they happen to look at only the RPI, then we could be on the outside. Hopefully, they'll consider all the factors and we'll be playing on Thursday,"
Tulsa, appearing in its final Conference USA Tournament, finished with a 15-4-2 C-USA Tournament record in its nine seasons as a league member. Tulsa moves into The American Athletic Conference next year. Today's championship game was the seventh time that the Hurricane appeared in the title game, winning crowns in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012, with finals appearances in 2005, 2010 and this season.
The NCAA Men's Soccer Championship field will be announced on Monday at 11 a.m. (CT). First round competition begins on Nov. 21 at campus sites.