Zips men's soccer ranked first in pre-season poll

“After a season that ended in disappointment, the University of Akron’s men’s soccer team looks to rebound and make a run in the NCAA tournament this fall. The Zips, who finished the 2008 season with a record of 17-2-4, ended their stellar season in the third round of the NCAA tournament against Northwestern.”

After a season that ended in disappointment, the University of Akron’s men’s soccer team looks to rebound and make a run in the NCAA tournament this fall.

The Zips, who finished the 2008 season with a record of 17-2-4, ended their stellar season in the third round of the NCAA tournament against Northwestern.

The game was played on Northwestern’s campus because Akron’s field was unplayable. The home field advantage gave the Wildcats the boost they needed to beat a favored UA club by a score of 1-0.

An optimistic Caleb Porter said after the loss, Once the sting of this loss wears off our players will realize some of the milestones they have achieved and this season will pave the way for next year, Porter added. We have a very young team and I’m excited about the future.

Porter was correct. The team finished with 17 wins on the year, which is the second most in school history.

The team’s collective 14 shutouts throughout the season were second in school history as well.

Porter hopes that the team can build on such a historic season.

I think this was a pivotal year. The players proved all season they could beat anyone and that they were a realistic contender during the NCAA Tournament. At the same time, the players were left with a very bitter taste after falling short in the round of sixteen.

Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are four tough big ten teams that will challenge the Zips this season.

Our team is very excited about the schedule, Porter said. Obviously, the competition will be extremely challenging but there is a greater opportunity for rewards and growth and that is our approach to the regular season.

The bottom line is in order to reach our potential as a team, and to be at our best heading into the postseason, we need to be battle tested, Porter added. This schedule was not set up to get easy wins, but rather to play tournament caliber teams so hopefully we will be in a position to accomplish our goals and make a run for the national championship, as that remains our primary mission.

A strong performance during the preseason will help the team in preparation for such a tough regular season schedule and, in turn, perhaps reach the goal of an NCAA tournament championship.

The team finished the spring with a record of 3-2-1 which included a loss to the 2008 MLS championship team the Columbus Crew.

I can honestly say I have never had a team make such strides in a spring season, Porter said. Our players have worked very hard to establish a strong platform to build on for next fall and they have accomplished that just about as well as they could have. Facing five of the better college teams in the country and a professional team, we have gained confidence and a belief that we are capable of beating anyone.

At the same time, we also found that we still have areas that need improving in order to reach our potential. I am extremely excited for next fall and have never been more confident that this team has all the ingredients to have a very successful season.

A key to such a promising spring season would be the recruiting of the Zips in the offseason.

ESPN Rise magazine ranked the Zips recruiting class as number one in the nation which is better than a number five spot the team received the past two years.

If we aspire to have one of the best programs in the country, we need to have the top national talent, Porter said. But our recruiting philosophy has been to recruit talented players who also possess winning qualities.

I am very proud of not only being able to lure the best of the best on the field, but also young men of character and all the intangibles. In my opinion, that is the common thread in successful teams.

Also a strong group of returning players will really help to push the team towards their goal of a national championship.

Ben Zemanski and Blair Gavin have been named co-captains for the 2009 season.

Strong leadership and internal accountability is a cornerstone of any successful team and, with Ben and Blair leading our team from within, we couldn’t be in better hands. Porter said.

Behind the leadership of an experienced team as well as a talented young group of players, the team should have a chance at an NCAA championship.

Everything falls in line with our vision and, in my opinion, the most important measurement of our success should be the NCAA Tournament and our pursuit of the national championship.