By Parker Perry
The University of Akron women’s soccer team (3-3) will open up Mid-American Conference play Friday night at First Energy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field with a match against three-time consecutive MAC Champion Central Michigan (6-1-1) at 7 p.m.
Central Michigan has wins on the road against Louisville, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin. They tied Michigan, whom Akron beat in their season opener, on Sept. 11.
With so many victories coming against so many prominent soccer programs, many soccer fans are wondering why the Chippewas have not been ranked nationally. They are ranked the 5th best team in the Great Lake Region.
Last year, en route to their third consecutive MAC tournament title, CMU beat Akron 3-0 at Mount Pleasant. Central Michigan relied on goals from underclassmen to score the majority of their points. Then-sophomore Ashley Mejilla and freshman Nicole Samuel combined for early goals that put the Zips in a deficit they were unable to recover from. UA will have to face Mejilla again, who has scored two goals thus far this season.
Third-year head coach Chris Pfau feels that Central Michigan has done an outstanding job, and hopes that his team can play to the level of the defending MAC champions.
“Central [Michigan] has done a great job over the last three years to always be there at the end,” Pfau said of the Chippewas.
After the Zips face their first challenge, they will have to quickly turn around and play Eastern Michigan (0-6-1) on Sunday at The University of Akron. The Eagles took flight last year relying on senior forwards Paige Sheridan and Maggie Christensen, along with senior goalkeeper Monique Budani. They finished with a 6-2-3 MAC record, good for a top -four finish in the conference.
This year, youth and inexperience has shown for the Eagles. One of the main causes of their lack of success has been an offense that has not produced. In their seven games, Eastern Michigan has only scored four times, and has been shut out five times in total.
That does not mean the Zips will not go into the match prepared and focused.
“I think this will be the hardest weekend,” Pfau said.
UA will be coming into their conference schedule battle tested. Pfau has made it clear several times throughout the year that he created the schedule in preparation of the MAC. He has also said that he is happy with the 3-3 start because, in his opinion, it is the toughest schedule Akron has faced in his tenure as head coach.
“I think we are very prepared this year going into conference,” Pfau said. “I believe if we play the way we have been, we will win more than we lose and we will be tough to beat.”
Both games this weekend are free for students with a valid Zip Card.