The NCAA Division I’s top ranked Akron Zips make one more run for the College Cup under head coach Caleb Porter. Their run begins Sunday afternoon at home against the Michigan Wolverines.
The Akron Zips ended their 2012 season 15-1-2, including 7-0 in the MAC. In the conference tourney they dispatched Bowling Green and 2011 MAC Champion Northern Illinois in the MAC Tournament. The season and tournament run got them a #1 ranking by the NCAA. Key wins during the season included then-ranked Indiana, 18th ranked St. Johns, Michigan, and Ohio State. They also formed a new rivalry against new conference member West Virginia. The one loss was to 3rd ranked Notre Dame.
Akron was awarded the fifth seed, which means they will host at least two tournament games at First Energy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field. This is Akron’s 27th appearance in the tournament. Also seeded in the Zips' region are No. 4 Connecticut (15-3-1), No. 12 Creighton (15-3-2) and No. 13 New Mexico (16-3-1). The remaining top-four seeds went to No. 1 Notre Dame (16-3-1), No. 2 Maryland (17-1-2) and No. 3 Georgetown (17-3-1).
The Zips host the Michigan Wolverines, who beat Niagara 3-1 in the first round Thursday night. In their regular season match the Zips won 1-0, also in Akron. Aodhan Quinn scored the game winner early in the first half. Akron outshot Michigan 24-8 overall and 10-2 on frame. Michigan goalkeeper Adam Grinwis was strong, with eight saves. But he missed on one, and you can’t do that against David Meves. The shutout was Meves’ 48th career goose egg. Michigan played aggressively on offense, but Akron held them to one second half shot.
This will be the last tournament run for head coach Caleb Porter. Porter, who has been with Akron seven seasons, became the highest winning percentage among active Division I coaches. His career season record of 122-18-16 (.871) is all the more impressive when you consider the Zips play some of the toughest schedules in the NCAA. Unlike other coaches who schedule “cupcake” games with weaker teams, Caleb likes to schedule top opponents in the regular season in order to prepare for the tournament. It works, Akron made it to the College Cup in 2009 and won it in 2010. During his reign the Zips matched an NCAA record with a 23 game winning streak. The Zips have been to the MAC championship every year under Porter, five MAC titles, and has taken them to the last four Rounds of 16. Fourteen of his players are now in the MLS. Porter has accepted a position with the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, and he wants to end his college coaching career with another title.
The University took little time in naming popular Assistant Head Coach Jared Embrick to replace Porter after the season. The 2010 National Assistant Coach of the Year has been a key contributor to the Zips' dominant run in college soccer since joining the staff in 2007. The constant stream of top college talent won’t be ending anytime soon, as Embrick is the program’s recruiting coordinator. He has had head coaching experience with Missouri Baptist University. He coached there four years.
Players to watch: The Zips are backed up by goalkeeper David Meves. The senior goalkeeper has an incredible 0.29 GAA, .889 sv%, 16 wins, and 16 shutouts. He allowed six goals in 1840 minutes. Junior midfielder Renaldo Brenes led the team with 10 goals (4 game winners), while senior midfielder Scott Caldwell led the Zips with 28 points (9g, 10a). Other key playmakers include junior MF Eric Stevenson (6g, 5a), freshman MF Dillon Serna (2g, 8a) and freshman forward Alfred Koroma (3g, 2a). As you can see, the Zips can come at you from just about any position on the field. They are known for their “possession” offense and smothering defense, both a hallmark of Coach Porter.
Both chair-back and bleacher seats are still available, although a sell-out is predicted. They were among the NCAA leaders in attendance again this year, averaging over 2000 per game. The game starts at 4:30pm at First Energy Stadium on the University of Akron campus. Fear the Roo!!!
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