Zips earn highest-ever tourney seed

“All eyes in the Tommy Evans Lounge were glued to the four televisions that were tuned in to ESPNEWS, waiting for the men’s soccer championship tournament to be announced. When Akron’s seed was announced, a mixed reaction followed, some cheering, some grumbling.”

All eyes in the Tommy Evans Lounge were glued to the four televisions that were tuned in to ESPNEWS, waiting for the men’s soccer championship tournament to be announced.

When Akron’s seed was announced, a mixed reaction followed, some cheering, some grumbling.

The Zips, ranked in the top 12 of the National Soccer Coaches Association of American/adidas poll all season, a team that has only been beaten once, were given the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, the highest in program history.

You can’t do anything about the decisions the committee makes, coach Caleb Porter said.

Obviously we always want more. I think we’re pleased with that seed. We would have liked to get the four (seed). I’m not sure how Michigan State jumped us there, but again we can’t control that. At the end of the day, we’re going to have to win no matter what the seed is.

All 16 seeded teams receive a first round bye and play their first match at home. Since UA is in the top eight, it will have home matches in its first two tournament matches. The top four seeds play home matches until the College Cup, the Final Four of collegiate soccer.

The Zips open tournament play at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 25 at Lee R. Jackson Field against the winner of the Ohio State-Oakland. The Buckeyes and the Grizzlies play on Nov. 22. Both teams have lost to the Zips this season.

Akron beat Oakland 2-1 on Oct. 8 at Lee Jackson and Ohio State 4-3 in Columbus on Nov. 7.

If UA advances to the round of 16, they will likely face the No. 12-seeded Notre Dame, a team the Zips beat 3-0 in their first regular season match on Aug. 29.

That puts in a very strong position to get a good start in the tournament, Porter said. I like our bracket. (There are) a lot of teams that we’ve already faced and been successful against, but there aren’t going to be any easy games and we can’t expect there to be any easy teams.

This season, UA is 16-1-4, with its only loss coming on Sept. 12 to New Mexico, a span of 16 matches. They are 13-0-3 since.

The Zips spent 15 weeks in the NSCAA/adidas top five, including four weeks at No. 2 this season. They are 4-0-1 against teams that made the 48-team field, and 2-0-1 against seeded teams; tying with the No. 6 seeded Indiana and beating the No. 11 seeded Michigan 1-0.

They won the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament, which they accomplished Sunday in a thrilling fashion with the Player of the Year candidate Steve Zakuani scoring a goal in double overtime, which gave the Zips a 1-0 win in the championship match.

It’s the second consecutive season the Zips have won the conference regular season and tournament and the fifth time in history.

Last season, the Zips garnered the 14th seed after winning the MAC Tournament championship and lost at home to South Florida in double overtime.

We’re pleased that we get a bye and two home games, Porter said. That’s never happened here. We’re battle tested and ready. Our regular season prepared us for the tournament. It also prepared us to face anybody. If we have to go on the road in the quarterfinal match, I’m confident we can go on the road and win.

They’ve advanced to the third round twice and the national quarterfinals once, in 2005, the best season in program history. That year, they garnered the No. 9 seed, the program’s previous high. That year they beat West Virginia at home and won two road matches against Connecticut before falling at Maryland, the eventual national champions.

The Zips are 4-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches, including a 2-1 record at home.

It’s huge, said senior goalkeeper Evan Bush, an integral part of the Zips 2005 run as a freshman. For example, in 2005 we went to UConn and got up two goals and we thought the game was put away. They came storming back because they were on their home field and had a great crowd. We pulled away, but it went to penalty kicks. It’s such a huge advantage (to play at home).


” #1.1360702:2793987965.JPG:6D9O0419.JPG:Sophomore Steve Zakuani connects with the game-winning goal Sunday in the Zips 1-0 double-overtime win over Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship game. :Gary Krueger / The Buchtelite”