Sports year in review
December 8, 2016
Filed under Sports
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The fall semester of 2016 will certainly be one to remember at The University of Akron. Beside it being the first semester for new President Matthew Willson, the sports teams at the University also had an interesting semester, highlighted by the men’s soccer team’s fifth-straight MAC Championship. Here is what happened with each of the University’s major sports teams this semester.
First, the men’s soccer team enjoyed a successful season, finishing with a 13-6-3 record, including a 3-1-1 record in the Mid-American Conference. The team then beat Western Michigan and Buffalo to earn yet another MAC Championship. After winning its conference, the Zips moved on to the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated Villanova 2-0 in the first round. Unfortunately, Akron’s season ended in the second round, when they lost 1-0 to Indiana.
Although it may have been a step back from the team’s 2015 Tournament semi-finals appearance, it was still another successful season for the Zips. Sophomore Ben Lundt took over in goal for Jake Fenlason, who is enjoying his time in the MLS. Lundt played well, earning a 13-6-3 record with a 1.10 goals against average and .702 save percentage.
The squad also saw the return of Stuart Holthusen, who missed the first 10 games with an injury. Holthusen came back to score seven goals and lead the team. Also, the emergence of freshmen Jonathan Lewis (two goals, 12 assists), Nick Hinds (five goals, four assists), Skye Harter (three goals, four assists), and sophomore Ezana Kahsay (four goals, two assists) has the future looking bright for Akron.
The University’s women’s soccer team did not enjoy nearly as good of a season, finishing with a 4-11-4 record overall and 1-6-4 record in conference play. However, there were certainly some bright spots, especially from the young players on the team.
Nearly all of the team’s top scorers should return next season, led by freshman Chloe Allen, who led the team with six goals and 12 points. Other freshmen that played well were Ashley Amato (four goals), Catie Corrigan (one goal, two assists), Julia Crowe (one goal, two assists), and goalkeeper Samara Yurchak (1-0-1, 0.70 GAA, .746 save percentage), who should start in goal next season following the graduation of Annabelle Hegeman.
The Zips’ football team had a very unusual season, with many ups and downs. Overall, the team finished 5-7 after losing its last four games. At one point the Zips were 5-3 and in first place in the MAC East Division. Injuries were a large factor, as starting quarterback Thomas Woodson (18 touchdowns, six interceptions, 2,079 yards) played only eight full games and running back Warren Ball (25 carries for 181 yards) only played in the first two games.
On a positive note, the Zips featured two of the top wide receivers in the MAC in Jerome Lane (62 catches, 1,018 yards, six touchdowns) and Jojo Natson (59 catches, 837 yards, 10 touchdowns). With both players potentially playing in the NFL next season, you may see a lot of Austin Wolf and Kwadarrius Smith next season.
Beside the losses of Natson, Lane, and a few defensive players (DeAndre Scott, Larry Hope, Daumantas Venckus), the team will return nearly everyone next season, which gives fans a lot of hope. Woodson, Wolf, and breakout linebacker Ulysees Gilbert (122 tackles and four sacks) will lead an Akron team looking to return to a Bowl Game.
The University’s volleyball team struggled in conference games this season after a decent non-conference stretch. The team finished 8-20 (3-13 MAC), but picked up late season conference wins versus Kent and Buffalo, so those wins could build some momentum for next season.
One of the bright spots on the season was Elya Karsner, who was named to the All-MAC All-Freshman Team, among five other MAC players. Karsner finished fifth on the team with 167 kills, and led the team with 2.65 kills per set. Karsner leads a team of returning players, which also includes sophomores Kayla Gwozdz (team-leading 246 kills), Patience Brown, Madi Baer, and fellow freshman Ashley Richardson.
The opening semester is winding down on a pair of two semester teams: the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Each squad has played well so far this season, and they look to continue that into the winter months.
First, the men’s team recorded a 6-2 record before last night’s game versus Coppin State, including a six game winning-streak from Nov. 17 through Dec. 3, when the team lost to 10th-ranked Creighton.
Senior Isaiah “Big Dog” Johnson leads the team with 15.4 points, 1.8 assists, and one block per game. Johnson continues to dominate in the paint as he is shooting an unbelievable 68 percent from the field. Guards Antino Jackson (12 points per game) and Noah Robotham (10 ppg), as well as senior Kwan Cheatham (9.4 ppg) look to lead the Zips to another MAC Championship Game in March.
The Zips are trying to win at least 21 games yet again this season, after winning that many in each of the past 11 seasons. Only Gonzaga, Ohio State, Florida, and Kansas have done the same in that span. Akron will play Gonzaga on Saturday in Spokane, Washington, in one of its final non-conference games of the season. Conference play begins on Jan. 3 versus Buffalo.
Finally, the Akron women’s basketball team is also enjoying a good start to its season, after making the MAC semi-final last March. The team is currently 4-2 after it defeated Youngstown State on Tuesday.
Senior Hannah Plybon leads the team in scoring with 19 points per game while shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point range. Plybon played one of the best games for any Zips athlete this season when she scored 39 points and made a school-record nine 3-pointers versus Canisius on Nov. 20.
After losing several key players to graduation, the team has had several players step up. Sophomore Megan Sefcik (11 ppg), senior Alex Ricketts (9.5 ppg), and freshman Shaunay Edmonds (6.3 ppg) have played very well for Head Coach Jodi Kest.
Continue to watch the men’s and women’s basketball teams as we head into the spring semester, while sports like track and field, swimming and diving, softball, golf, and tennis return for the Zips.