Tough week prepares Zips

“A week that saw the Zips 10-game winning streak snapped as well as ending the conference schedule undefeated for the second consecutive season has further prepared the No. 2 team in the country for a nation title run, coach Caleb Porter said. The University of Akron men’s soccer team will likely drop in the national ranking after a tie with Penn State Wednesday, which they followed with a 2-1 win at Hartwick, leaving the Zips with an unbeaten record in the Mid-American Conference for the sixth time since joining the league in 1993.”

A week that saw the Zips 10-game winning streak snapped as well as ending the conference schedule undefeated for the second consecutive season has further prepared the No. 2 team in the country for a nation title run, coach Caleb Porter said.

The University of Akron men’s soccer team will likely drop in the national ranking after a tie with Penn State Wednesday, which they followed with a 2-1 win at Hartwick, leaving the Zips with an unbeaten record in the Mid-American Conference for the sixth time since joining the league in 1993.

It’s a lot tougher than people think, Porter said. When you can run the table in your conference, it’s a testament to our focus and approach. For the most part, we played to our potential throughout the season. It’s a difficult conference with a lot of good coaches.

The Zips last lost a MAC regular season game on Oct. 14, 2006 to Northern Illinois, a span of 13 games. Against Hartwick, Porter said he felt UA played its most complete matches of the season, what he feels was a direct response to the tie against the Nittany Lions, which is why Porter is so optimistic.

He said the Penn State game served as a wake up call for his team and as a teaching point as UA heads into the Mid-American Conference in less than two weeks.

I thought our team defending could have been better, Porter said. Attacking wise, we created enough chances. We had been playing a lot of teams that have been trying to sit back and defend. (Penn State) played for goals and we let our guard down.

Porter said his team was used to playing MAC foes that routinely load the backfield with defenders in hopes to limit the Zips offense. The Nittany Lions, however, played an open style, which led to more pressure on UA’s young defense, something the Zips will see in the NCAA tournament, which begins at the end of November.

A lot of teams weren’t capable of exposing our lack of solid and disciplined defending, Porter said. Even against Michigan, we needed to be better defensively. We won, but could have given up more goals. Which is good because as we play more quality teams, it exposes us. Now we turn up a notch. As far as team defending we’ve raised our standards. That’s the reason we set up our schedule that way.

The Zips have another test this Friday, the only regular season game remaining- an away game against Ohio State, a team that has been in and out of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/ adidas top 25 poll – before the MAC tournament begins on Nov. 14.

Those remaining games are especially important in securing a high seeding in the NCAA tournament. Teams with a No. 8 seed or better have home field advantage until the national quarterfinals and those with a No. 4 or better seed will play at home until the College Cup, the soccer equivalent to the Final Four in basketball.

It’s very important, Porter said. I don’t think we lost much in the RPI. We need to prove we’re a hot team; they put a lot of emphasis in how you end the season. We need to prove to the committee that we’re worthy of a top four seed. Ohio State is a high RPI team. The better we do will ensure we have a chance to get a top-four or top-eight position.