Zips Falls in Final Four of the College Cup

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The University of Akron men’s soccer team had the chance to deny Stanford a second opportunity to be the second soccer program in NCAA history to win three consecutive national titles. However, the Zips would suffer a familiar fate, losing to Stanford in the Final Four of the College Cup tournament 2-0 in Philadelphia, Penn. at Talen Energy Stadium.

The Cardinal’s first half was a dominant display of defensive pressure. Stanford took nine shots, four on goal,  to Akron’s two shots, one on goal.

Stanford keeper Nico Corti made five saves to ensure the clean sheet for Stanford, who has not surrendered a goal in NCAA Tournament play this season. Akron keeper Ben Lundt pulled in four saves for the Zips but gave up two goals due to Akron’s sloppy mid-field play.

Stanford had a seven-minute stretch in the first half where the Cardinal kept Zips on their defensive third, having five near opportunities to put the ball into the net at the Major League Soccer venue.

Stanford’s skipper, Drew Skundrich, forced a turnover from Akron’s Pau Belana, allowing the Cardinals to set up Foster Langsdorf for a diving header for the first goal of the game.

“I think every player was handful tonight. If you turn the ball over in the right spots, Langford will prey on it and we didn’t make him play the game he didn’t want to play. For that reason, we let him do what he wanted to do tonight,” said Embick on Langford’s performance on the night.

The best chance for Akron came in the 61st minute when David Egbo’s shot was saved by Corti. Corti’s save deflected to Niko De Vera, had a strike on goal, which again was saved by Corti.

“That was the moment that we had the momentum and a chance to get back in the game and I do think it’s a key one,” Embick said on the two saves. “If we really rose to the occasion at that moment, who knows what would have happened. When it didn’t go through we kind of had a lull and they started to get back into the game. That’s what happens.”

The final blow for Stanford came in the 79th minute when Werner took a deflection and drove the ball down the left side of the box. He hooked a left-footed shot over Lundt, and the ball deflected on the bottom side of the crossbar and in, giving Stanford the victory and ticket to the final.

“It’s hard to say it, but they were the better team out on the field tonight. They came out aggressive, and I think they got us early and we couldn’t respond,” said head coach Jared Embick after the game.

Preview: Akron Men’s Soccer paired with SIU Edwardsville for their first MAC Championship Game

Photo Courtesy of MACtion twitter account

The University of Akron men’s soccer enters the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan as the second seed of the tournament. The Zips open their championship play against third-seeded SIU Edwardsville on Friday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m.

The two advancing teams will square off for the MAC Championship on Sunday, Nov.12, at 1 p.m.

The Zips finished the regular season with a record of 14-3-1, winning their last eight games of the season straight, which included a 3-1 victory over SIU Edwardsville.

Key players are now stepping up for the Zips, coming off the back side of the regular season. Senior Stuart Holthusen, who scored six goals in his last 3 games. Senior Sam Gainford finished the season with six goals and four assists.

“We say, in the locker room, it’s Stewie’s time of year,” said Gainford on Holthusen’s end of season performance. “He’s proven it and once again he came to life. He’s on fire.”

The Zip’s defensive effort off the ball has been the main component to how Akron has only allowed an average one goal for the opposition.

“I think it says when we play our game and we pass the ball well, we control it, we press the ball when we lose it, that we’re very difficult to create chances against,” said head coach Jared Embick about the team. “That’s always been our success here; how well we are with the ball, how well we press. You know, the other team really struggles to create rhythm and chances against us and leads to us get some shutouts.”