Zips fall to WMU 4-3 in PKs

By: Chris Coon

At the end of regulation on Friday, the No. 1 seed University of Akron men’s soccer team was tied 1-1 with the No. 4 seed Western Michigan before losing 4-3 in penalty kicks in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at First Energy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field.

The Zips (13-3-4) out-shot WMU 10-3 in the first half and 22-10 overall, but lost the lead with less then 10 minutes to go in regulation after Western Michigan was able to get on the board.

“We’re very disappointed to not be in the championship game,” said sixth-year Akron Head Coach Caleb Porter on Friday. “I actually thought we played very well, dominated the game and did everything we needed to do. We just didn’t finish.”

Before the loss, the Zips had won the past four MAC Tournament titles. The MAC Championship match, however, resulted in Northern Illinois defeating Western Michigan 1-0 on Sunday, advancing the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament.

Akron took the lead first in the 65th minute after senior defender Matt Dagilis headed the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Western Michigan, however, answered back in the 84th minute when Doug Raak chipped a free kick from Doug Jones over junior goalkeeper David Meves’ head, tying the game 1-1 and resulting in two scoreless over times.

With both teams scoreless in overtime, the game was forced into penalty kicks, where both teams connected on their first two attempts.

Junior midfielder Scott Caldwell missed his penalty kick, while Derek Schruaben was successful, giving the Broncos a 3-2 lead.

Zips sophomore Aodhan Quinn answered back, burying a PK past the goalkeeper for a 3-3 tie, but Jason Grant notched the fourth straight shot to keep WMU up 4-2.

Akron sophomore Darren Mattocks had the last shot to tie, but his shot sailed high over the post.

“We missed four breakaways,” Porter said. “We had 12-plus quality chances, better than any chance they had all game. It should have been 3-0 or 4-0. It’s a game of moments. We don’t finish our moments on our attacking end; they finish one moment.”

The Zips had plenty of chances to score, especially in the first half, but could not convert.

Senior Luke Holmes had a good look early, but Western Michigan goalkeeper Sean Lewis denied his point-blank header in the 20th minute.

In the 43rd minute, Holmes almost found the net again, but his shot from straight on hit the right side of the post. One minute later, a WMU turnover led to a long breakaway run by Mattocks, who found himself one-on-one with the keeper, but Lewis turned away the Zips once again.

Entering the game, Akron was ranked No. 7 in the nation, along with an RPI ranking of No. 21. With the loss, the Zips were still able to make the NCAA tournament, hosting the first round of the tournament this Thursday at First Energy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field against Northwestern. The time of the match will be determined at a later date.

“The positive is we earned the right hopefully to play for the national championship, and that’s where we wanted to be,” Porter said. “We made our path a little harder than I wanted.”