College Cup or bust

By Parker Perry, Sports Editor

Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan used to say, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.”

Nothing is more true for the No. 7 Akron Zips (16-3-1) right now. On Monday morning, Akron woke up expecting to be crowned with a NCAA Tournament seed after being Mid-American Conference champions. They had just come off a 4-1 victory over Western Michigan, clinching, yet again, a MAC championship. But instead of becoming royalty, the NCAA selection committee had other ideas. men soccer champ (3 of 18)

They were deemed jesters and placed into the tournament unseeded, which forces them to play the defending champions of both the Big Ten Conference and NCAA.

The defending national champions, the Indiana Hoosiers (8-11-2), are standing on the Zips’ front porch, and they want to play. The start time is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

It has been the consensus of nearly everyone who has followed the Zips this season that they are playing at their best. Friday night, against West Virginia, Akron scored three goals for the first time all season. Sunday they notched one more. The Zips are playing at their highest level right now, but so are the Hoosiers.

How Indiana got here

The Hoosiers were not good this year. In all likelihood, they were not going to make the NCAA Tournament if they did not win the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday. IU started their season off 1-4. At one point they had lost five straight matches. They lost two of their last three games.

The Hoosiers made the tournament because they won the Big Ten Conference Tournament. They upset Michigan,  No. 16 Penn State and No. 14 Michigan State during their improbable run.

Zips confused by seeding

All indications were that the Zips were going to play in the national tournament. They entered the MAC Tournament with two things on their mind: winning the tournament and impressing the NCAA selection committee into granting Akron a top 16 seed into the tournament.

It was safe to assume that if the Zips dominated the tournament, they were sure to receive one of the top 16 seeds. A top 16 seed gets a first-round bye in the tournament and is guaranteed at least one home game. The Zips deserved more than one home game, many felt. When the national polls showed Akron in the top ten, it was supposed to be a safe bet that they were going to land somewhere near the No. 9 seed through the No. 11 seed. Those would give Akron the bye and two home games.

But that did not happen. Despite what soccer coaches from around the country felt, who voted Akron No. 7 in the country even after the seeds were released, the committee decided that Akron’s loss to Hartwick at home and their two other blemishes — both occurring in overtime — were unforgivable. Akron did not receive a bye, but they were given the Thursday night home game.

Hoosier star power

Despite having a troubling year, the Hoosiers were awarded several individual awards from the Big Ten office. The team landed four players on the Big Ten second-team. Those players were Jacob Bushue, A.J. Corrado, Nikita Kotlov and Tommy Thompson. However, their biggest award was given to Thompson, who, along with being named to the team, was also honored as Big Ten Freshman of the Year.


Kotlov and Thompson both have five goals a piece. Corrado was able to come up with three goals this year, and Bushue had two. The 15 goals that the four achieved amounted to 44 percent of the scoring.

Another player that the Hoosiers will bring is Femi Hollinger-Janzen. Janzen may have been snubbed of yearly awards. He scored five goals in the season, but he only started 13 games. He was often sub when he did play.

Goalkeeping issues

Both the Akron Zips and the Indiana Hoosiers have had their goalkeeping troubles this season.

Akron’s Fernando Piña was not bad. He only gave up 12 goals in his 18 appearances, but he was pulled last weekend and did not play a minute in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Instead, head coach Jared Embick decided to go with backup Jake Fenlason.

The questions surrounding the keeper spot are troubling for Akron. Fenlason had a clean sheet on Friday, but gave up the goal on the only shot he faced on Sunday.

Indiana’s problems have been more severe. They started the season with Michael Soderlund, but in his 16 games played, he gave up 29 goals. He has been pulled and has not played since the beginning of November. In his place has been freshman Colin Webb.

Webb played through the Big Ten Tournament, and did as well as one may expect. He has given up six goals this season. In the tournament he only gave up one.

History and traditions 

Indiana has captured eight national titles  while Akron has captured one and is considered one of the most successful programs in recent years.

Akron has made an appearance the national tournament 11 of the past 12 years.

The last time the two met was last season. Indiana was ranked No. 10 at the time, but the Zips were able to escape with a 1-0 win. The game was played at a neutral field at Notre Dame. The last time the two met in the national tournament was in 2010. The Zips defeated the Hoosiers 2-1 on their way to the national championship.