Champions once again

By Terry Rabbitts, Sports-editor@buchtelite.com

The University of Akron men’s soccer team won their 12 th Mid-American Conference Championship title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the 30th time Sunday afternoon by edging Buffalo 1-0 in the championship game at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

Victor Souto planted a shot from the middle of the box into the back of the goal at the 44:30 mark of the first half and the Zips’ (15-3-2) defense made that goal stand for the victory over the Bulls (8-7-4).

NCAA Tournament play begins with opening-round games on Thursday, Nov. 19. The Zips will receive strong consideration from the NCAA Selection Committee for a national seed, an opening-round bye, and a home game. The NCAA will reveal the 48-team field on Monday, Nov. 16, at 1 p.m. ET.

Akron outshot Buffalo, 26-11, including an 11-6 margin in shots on goal. Sam Gainford had a game-high eight shots for the Zips. Stuart Holthusen and Adam Najem added four and three shots, respectively, and five different Akron players recorded two shots apiece.

Jake Fenlason managed six saves for the Zips on his way to collecting his eighth shutout of the season, while Joseph Kuta made 10 stops for Buffalo.

The Zips dominated the play early and held a 16-3 advantage in shots, but the Bulls’ defense led by six saves from Kuta that kept Akron off the board until Souto’s heroics.

Holthusen had a chance earlier in the game’s, at the 13:49 mark, it took a diving save from Kuta to prevent Holthusen’s curving half-volley off a serve from the corner by Andrew Souders from giving the Zips an early lead.

Less than two minutes later in the 16th minute, another strong Kuta save denied Robby Dambrot from notching his first career goal off a strike from six yards out.

Souto was credited with his sixth goal of the season towards the end of the first half. Gainford served a ball into the box off a corner kick that a Buffalo defender attempted to clear, but Souto picked-off the ball and blasted the ball passed Kuta for what proved to be the game-winning goal.

Buffalo was nearly awarded a penalty kick in the 66th minute as the Zips were called for a foul just outside of the box. Cicerone took the free kick, but Fenlason came up with the save to deny the scoring opportunity.

Holthusen, Najem, Souders and Souto were all named to the All-Tournament Team after the game.

 

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