Tourney time in Akron

By: Chris Coon

For the first time since 2006, The University of Akron men’s soccer team was unable to come home with the Mid-American Conference championship, losing 4-3 in penalty kicks in the semifinal round of the MAC Tournament to Western Michigan last Friday.

The Zips (13-3-4), however, will take on Northwestern (10-4-4) this Thursday at First Energy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Kick off is slated for 7:30 p.m.

“First and foremost, we’re happy to have the opportunity to play for the national championship as one of the 48 teams,” Akron Head Coach Caleb Porter said. “There are 203 Division I men’s soccer programs, and 155 of them are done.”

The winner of the game will go on the road to face sixth-seed SMU on Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Northwestern (11-4-5) will enter the game Thursday making their sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament all-time, the last five appearances coming in the last eight years.

For the first time in school history, this season the Wildcats captured both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships.

In their last 11 games, the Wildcats are unbeaten (8-0-3) after beginning the first five matches of the season with three losses (1-3-1).

The Zips will be meeting Northwestern for the third time in the all-time series and second in postseason play. Akron last met the Wildcats in 2008 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, losing 1-0 as the 14th seed.

This will mark Akron’s 26th appearance in the tournament all-time and fifth consecutively since 2007.

Under Porter, the Zips are 6-1-1 at home in the NCAA Tournament and 44-1-5 overall the past 50 games.

“We’re focused on the fact we have the opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament,” Porter said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what we’ve worked for and this is what we’ve been talking about all season long and finally we’re here and we have the opportunity starting on Thursday.”