Football or futbol? CCU making national noise in both sports

Are you ready for some football? Or some futbol? Either way, Coastal Carolina has you covered.

Twenty-four hours after the Coastal Carolina football team won its fifth straight game to claim the Big South Conference title on Saturday, the Chanticleer soccer squad worked its own magic with a 2-1 overtime victory over Wake Forest to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

It’s hard to say which story is bigger, but both are pretty astounding. Since we are located in the US (and the Southeastern corner at that), we’ll go by American rules. It is probably the most surprising of the two stories.

Coastal fired popular coach David Bennett and replaced him with a Wall Street millionaire who had spent more time in a board room than a locker room. Joe Moglia matched Bennett’s 7-4 record in his rookie season, but more importantly he captured the Big South Conference title and the coveted NCAA playoff berth that comes with it.

Moglia fulfilled his dream of returning to coaching after a 30-year hiatus and instantly wrote a rags-to-riches story (or in his case, riches to football success). He celebrated by getting his first Gatorade shower (I’ll bet no one tried that on the former TD Ameritrade CEO) as the final seconds ticked away in Saturday’s 41-20 victory over Charleston Southern. Now the Chants are headed to Daytona Beach for a first-round game against Bethune-Cookman, the first step in Moglia’s plan to build a FCS powerhouse.

“We say, ‘Just take it a game at a time,’ but there’s still the dream out there to compete one day for the national championship,” he said. “When you get the opportunity to live your dream, to do what you truly believe you can do, it’s a great moment.”

A similar scenario played out all season on the soccer pitch just across Chanticleer Drive as the soccer Chants didn’t lose at home (11-0-1). Coastal rolled to a Big South regular season title but lost the conference tournament title game 3-2 to Winthrop last Sunday, snapping a 20-game winning streak against league foes.

However, Coastal got the ultimate show of respect with an at-large berth and first-round home game, and the Chants have backed it up, blowing out visiting Elon 3-0 on Thursday and then making the short trip to Winston-Salem, NC, on short rest. Coastal took advantage of its experience of playing five overtime matches to wear down Wake Forest in 98 minutes of marathon soccer.

Now it’s off to top-seeded Maryland, but the Chants don’t fear the Terps. Perhaps Docking’s biggest accomplishment in his 15 years at the helm of the CCU soccer program is not just that he’s taken his teams to the NCAA Tournament, but that his players EXPECT to get there and are not intimidated by big-name programs.

“We go to Maryland and get ready for the big crowd up there,” said Docking. “You know, anything can happen. That’s why we play these NCAA (Tournament) games.”

But perhaps the biggest surprise is not the success of either program individually but the fact that both have shown they can co-exist and excel. The big talk when CCU broke ground on Brooks Stadium, thereby displacing what had always been the men’s soccer field, was that the addition of football would spell the end of Coastal’s soccer program.

After all, the soccer team had to find a new field and then share it with the football team when it didn’t have a place to practice. The soccer players even had to share lockers, showers and the weight room with the football invaders, a tough start for both sides. But a decade later, both teams are making noise on a national level.

It’s a testament to both the football and futbol programs, no matter how you spell it.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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