MAC Champion Zips poised for NCAA Tournament run

As Monday rolled around, The University of Akron men’s soccer team learned that they had received the No. 3 seed in this years 2010 NCAA Tournament, making it their fourth consecutive appearance since 2007.

The Zips, who have compiled a record of 18-1-1, will be looking to make a trip back to the College Cup this year, hosted at Meredith Stadium in Santa Barbra, California.

It’s like we have three home games and we’re very pleased, but we also feel it’s very hard for teams to go through Lee Jackson, said Head Coach Caleb Porter. I also think there is also a little bit of an edge for these guys because they have been itching for this time for months.

Akron, who received a first round bye as a top-four seed, will play the winner of the Xavier and West Virginia University game, which will take place this Thursday at 7 p.m. in Morgantown, W.Va.

The Xavier Musketeers, who have a record of 11-6-4, are coming off an Atlantic 10 championship after defeating La Selle 2-0. Offensively, the Musketeers are led by sophomore forward Luke Spencer with five goals and three assists.

The Mountaineers enter the first round of tournament play with a record of 10-7-2, and are lead offensively by junior forward Franck Tayou with six goals, while sophomores Eric Schoenle and Moeryhan Doue are tied for second with five goals.

UA is lead offensively by freshman Darren Mattocks, who has a total of 15 goals, while junior Michael Nanchoff is second with eight, and juniors Darlington Nagbe and Kofie Sarkodie are third with seven.

In addition, Top Drawer Soccer has announced Mattocks to their National Team of the week due to his exceptional play in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, where he scored a total of three goals in two games.

Throughout the year, Akron’s defense has been stingy, recording 13 shutouts and only allowing a total of nine goals. Sophomore goalkeeper David Meves has been solid all year, recording a total of 42 saves with a .824 save percentage. Meves is also ranked fifth in the nation with a .459 goal against average.

That’s what you want at the end of the year is to be peaking at the right time, and I feel that the second half against Western Michigan was probably the best half of the year, Porter said.

Akron’s standing as the No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament marks only the second time in school history where the Zips have achieved a top-four seed in the tournament; the first occurred in 2009 when they were awarded the No. 1 seed.

The Zips reaching the NCAA tournament marks the 25th time where they have competed in postseason play. Last year, Akron matched its deepest postseason run in school history by facing Virginia in the National Championship, which they also did so in 1986 when they were defeated by Duke, 1-0.

I’ve been excited the whole year; we basically base our whole spring and regular season just to get to this point, said defender Zarek Valentin. I also think we need to focus on playing well because we have some tough games coming up, regardless to us playing at home.

Under Porter in the last four seasons, Akron has qualified for the NCAA Tournament, along with earning first round byes in each of those years, while regularly advancing to the Sweet 16 since 2008. Also the Zips have won seven MAC Tournament titles in the last nine years after their 4-0 win against Western Michigan last Sunday.

The second round of the NCAA Tournament will take place in Akron at Lee R. Jackson Soccer Field this Sunday, with kickoff scheduled to start at 4 p.m. The Zips’s opponent will be determined Thursday, with the winner coming out of the Xavier and West Virginia University match.