Fenlason saves unbeaten streak for men’s soccer

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Kristina Aiad-Toss

Richie Laryea (6) with the ball looking to pass

By Terry Rabbitts, Sports-editor@buchtelite.com

The University of Akron men’s soccer team kept its unbeaten streak alive and extended it to eight games after leaving Kalamazoo, Michigan with a 1-1 double-overtime tie with Western Michigan University on Saturday.

Jake Fenlason saved a season-high nine shots, including one in the last 15 ticks of the second extra session, to help the No. 5 Zips (11-2-2, 2-0-1 MAC) extend its streak and earn a key point in the conference standings.

The Broncos (8-3-2, 1-1-1) were able to control a couple statistics that Akron usually dominates its opponents in: overall shots and shots on goal. Western Michigan had a 20-7 advantage in shots which included a 10-4 edge for shots on goal.

This marked the second game in a row during the current streak that the Zips were beaten in those two categories. Last Wednesday against Michigan State University, they made their shots count as they were outshot by three, including 7-5 on goal, in a 4-1 victory.

“Western has a great team that is very determined,” Akron head coach Jared Embick said. “It is a tough place to play and we’re very happy we got a point to stay atop the MAC.  We need to improve some aspects of our game to get a win on Wednesday, as we have another tough game at West Virginia.”

Adam Najem and Sean Sepe led Akron with two shots apiece while three other players registered one shot each.

It was Najem who hit a volley over Bronco goalkeeper Drew Shepherd at the 22:01 mark for the 1-0 lead for the Zips. For Najem, it was his seventh goal on the season.

Less than six minutes later at the 27:40 mark, the Broncos’ Sean Conerty delivered a free kick into the box that made its way through Fenlason’s hands and into the net to tie the contest at 1.

Akron was lucky to be even at the intermission as Western Michigan outshot the Zips 9-1, including 6-1 on goal during the first 45 minutes of the match.

Brad Ruhaak managed to get the Zips’ first shot of the second half at the 50:57 mark, but had his attempt off a corner kick from Sam Gainford blocked.

Sepe added another shot off a Gainford corner kick, but the strike went wide at 56:07.

Akron put together an offensive rush in the 77th minute. Najem had a shot stopped by the Broncos and eight seconds later Nate Shultz tried to put the Zips ahead, but his assault on the goal was stopped by Shepherd for the save.

Shepherd saved his team again at the 79:05 mark by stopping a Richie Laryea shot. Sepe had another attempt blocked at 89:39.

A spectacular diving save by Fenlason on a shot from Conerty with under 4 minutes to play was the highlight of the three that he was forced to make in the last ten minutes of regulation.

With 14 seconds left in the last extra session, Fenlason made his ninth save to complete the season high.

The Zips return to action by taking a trip to West Virginia for a key conference match on Wednesday. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Akron then hosts UCLA in a 1 p.m. contest on Nov. 1 at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.