Disappointing 2006 season leaves Zips hungry

“Teams are usually evaluated by their amount of talent, but it’s motivation and desire that ultimately determine what will be accomplished. Fortunately, for the University of Akron men’s soccer team, the 2007 squad is talented and hungry. Last season, the Zips finished 13-5-1 while claiming its ninth Mid-American Conference regular season championship.”

Teams are usually evaluated by their amount of talent, but it’s motivation and desire that ultimately determine what will be accomplished.

Fortunately, for the University of Akron men’s soccer team, the 2007 squad is talented and hungry.

Last season, the Zips finished 13-5-1 while claiming its ninth Mid-American Conference regular season championship.

They were defeated in the MAC tournament by Northern Illinois and finished the season unranked, causing them to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000.

The 2006 season started promising, but ended in disappointment.

This year’s team is eager to prove it can compete with the nation’s best.

This team has high standards and is hungry to accomplish what they feel they missed out on last season, head coach Caleb Porter said. They have worked extremely hard in the offseason and feel they can compete with anyone in the country.

The 2007 Akron squad has been selected as the preseason favorite to win the MAC.

The Zips have 15 returning lettermen, including nine starters.

Eight of the returning lettermen were starters on the 2005 team that reached the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

The Zips have a nice blend of experience and youth with a highly touted recruiting class.

The recruiting class was ranked No. 5 in the nation by CollegeSoccerNews.com and is considered the best recruiting class ever at UA.

Players like Steve Zakuani, London, England; Anthony Ampaipitakwong Carrollton, Texas; Blair Gavin, Franklin, Tenn.; Aaron Henkle, Carmel, Ind., and Plain Dealer Player of the Year Michael Nanchoff, North Royalton, Ohio, headline a class that should make an immediate impact.

The freshman class has helped complement an already strong group, Porter said. They have helped bolster different areas. We have become a more athletic team and a more dangerous attacking team.

In the offseason, offense was a large area of concentration for the Zips.

This is an area (forward position) where we were not very deep last year and struggled to score consistently, Porter said.

Senior Pablo Moriera and sophomore Stefan Ostergren will be critical to the offensive success.

Ostergren is coming off an impressive spring and continues to prove his value.

Stefan really turned the corner this spring and proved he was worthy of a spot on the field, Porter said.

Freshman Steve Zakuani should make an immediate impact on the offense with his speed and ability to create plays.

Defense has been the strength of the Zips for the last two seasons.

Junior Ossie Michalsen is in the center, and joining him will be senior Corey Sipos, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Senior and three-year starter Matt Augustine, will be at left back and right back will be Devin McKenney.

Sipos and Michalsen are back together. They were a large reason the defense owned the best goal-against-average in the nation in 2005.

Corey has a tenacious style of play that sets the tone for everyone else, Porter said. He really complements Ossie in the middle.

Many different faces will be seen at midfield this season.

The group will be led by senior Elliot Bradbrook, senior Steve Kalan and junior Matt Tutich.

Other athletes trying to show their talent will be sophomore Ben Zamanski, sophomore Vedran Ilic, sophomore C.J. Kaufman and freshman Ampaipitakwong.

The coaching staff is excited about Ampaipitakwong’s ability at midfield.

Ampai is a special player who brings excitement to the game, Porter said. His creativity as a playmaker will help fill the void left by the graduation of Sinisa (Ubiparipovic).

The Zips have been blessed to have junior Evan Bush in front of the net for the last two seasons.

He is considered one of the best in the nation.

Evan’s edge is in his psychological makeup, Porter said. Nothing rattles him. He can make the special save, but won’t get beat on easy goals.

Porter believes they have put together one of the strongest schedules in the country.

The first five games are against NCAA tournament teams. The Zips must fire out of the gates in order to gain national attention.

The Zips will face New Mexico at home in the Westfield Insurance Cup Friday at Lee Jackson Field at 7:30 pm.


” #1.1361939:4202330623.jpg:Bush done.jpg:Goalkeeper Evan Bush had a .87 goals-against-average in 2006.:Buchtelite File Photo”