With the 2016-2017 school year finally underway, there is a sense of excitement here at The University of Akron. One of the main contributors to that excitement is the men’s soccer team, which is looking to bring home the national championship that it nearly captured in December of last year.
Last year’s soccer season ended in absolute heartbreak. Stanford advanced past Akron in the national semi-final game after an epic 10-round penalty kick battle that Stanford won 8-7. Stanford went on to win the national championship, giving the Zips that much more motivation to bring home the College Cup this year.
Akron debuted this season ranked second in the nation, so it is safe to say it is championship or bust for the Zips this year.
Akron returns many key players from last year’s team. Among them is senior captain Adam Najem, who ranks as the second best player in the nation on topdrawersoccer.com. It was believed that Najem would pursue a professional contract, but instead chose to continue his time here at Akron, helping the Zips bring home the College Cup.
The Zips will also welcome back six other starters from last season, including senior Victor Souto, who is ranked as the 32nd best player. The Zips also welcome the second ranked recruiting class in the nation this year, all of whom hope to make an impact this season.
Inevitably, there are also some holes to fill in the lineup as well. Akron will need to find a new striker as its leading goal scorer Richie Laryea entered the MLS draft after last season. It was believed his spot would be taken by junior Stuart Holthusen, who was the team’s third leading goal scorer last year. Unfortunately, Holthusen will be out around six weeks with a hamstring injury. Coach Jared Embick is still playing with different lineups until he figures out what will work best for the Zips.
Akron will also need to find another man to take care of the goalkeeping duties after Jake Fenlason graduated. Through the first four games of the season it appears that sophomore Ben Lundt, from Berlin, Germany, will be the Zips’ goalkeeper.
With the season finally underway, the Zips look to make their run to the championship. After starting the season off with two 1-0 wins against #7 Georgetown and #9 Seattle, the Zips earned the honor of being ranked #1 in the nation.
That ranking didn’t last long.
The Zips went on a road trip this past weekend to the west coast. Friday they played at San Diego State University and lost 1-0, with the only goal being a penalty kick in the 61st minute.
The Zips looked to rebound from that loss when they went to play #9 UCLA Monday evening. Things went from bad to worse for the Zips when they lost by a final score of 6-1 to the Bruins. Akron conceded three goals within a 32-second period in the second half, setting an NCAA record for the fastest time three goals have ever been scored.
The Zips will return home this Friday hoping to bounce back from their disappointing road trip. Akron plays Oregon State, with the match starting at 7:30. So everybody come out and support the Zips on their road to the College Cup.