Nationally-ranked Zips on attack

“Usually a 15-4-1 season, an unbeaten conference record and a MAC Tournament victory would be viewed as a huge success. However, yet another early departure from the NCAA tournament left Zips men’s soccer fans wondering what could have been. Soccer can be a cruel sport in that you can dominate the whole game and lose it in one moment, University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter said of last year’s 1-0 upset loss to South Florida in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament.”

Usually a 15-4-1 season, an unbeaten conference record and a MAC Tournament victory would be viewed as a huge success.

However, yet another early departure from the NCAA tournament left Zips men’s soccer fans wondering what could have been.

Soccer can be a cruel sport in that you can dominate the whole game and lose it in one moment, University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter said of last year’s 1-0 upset loss to South Florida in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament.

While the 2007 Zips season ended a bit prematurely for UA, there is plenty of optimism surrounding this year’s squad.

With a nationally recognized group of incoming freshman as well as a No. 18 national ranking by College Soccer News, the Zips truly believe that 2008 may be the year they put to rest their past playoff disappointments.

Standing in their way is a difficult schedule that features a grueling stretch against four nationally-ranked teams.

We have a very aggressive approach to scheduling, Porter said.

To be the best, you have to play the best.

In fact, Akron will begin with three of the best in the nation.

They take on 24th-ranked North Carolina in an exhibition match, then travel to Indiana University, Porter’s alma mater, to take play third-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish as well as the No. 7 Hoosiers in the IU Classic.

But Porter has reason to be confident.

In addition to another stellar recruiting class, he has last year’s leading scorer, Steve Zakuani, whom Porter calls, one of the best players I’ve ever coached, coming back for his sophomore year.

Some of the things he does, I’ve just never seen before, Porter said.

Anthony Ampaipitakwong, who led the team with nine assists, will also return.

Anthony is an exciting player, Porter said of the sophomore infielder. The kind that gets you out of your seat.

Three-time first-team All-MAC defender Ossie Michalson and two-time All-MAC goalie Evan Bush will return for their senior seasons.

Michalson was a key contributor on a defensive unit that held MAC opponents scoreless in every conference game last season.

Bush is already Akron’s career leader in shutouts with 35 in only three seasons.

Despite last year’s early post-season exit, Porter and the team are very optimistic.

Overall, I think it’s going to be a fun year.