LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Akron men's soccer senior Niko De Vera (Camas, Wash.) stepped to the line and delivered a successful penalty that will go down in Zips' lore as third-ranked and fifth-seeded Akron (18-3-1) punched its ticket to its fifth-ever College Cup (1986, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017) edging fourth-seeded and No. 6 Louisville (13-2-5) in six rounds of penalty kicks, 4-3, on Friday, Dec. 1, in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championships.
The outcome of the game will officially go down in the record books as a 0-0 double-overtime draw, but the Zips are moving on to Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa., where Akron will battle the advancing team between No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 9 Stanford on Dec. 8.
The Demon Deacons and Cardinal will square off in an Elite Eight showdown on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.
Game time and television coverage for Akron's semifinal match at the College Cup will be announced at a later date.
The tilt was first meeting between the two teams since the Zips captured the 2010 NCAA title on the strength of a 1-0 victory past the Cardinals in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Sparked by a 6-2 advantage in shots in overtime, Akron bettered the Cardinals in shots on the evening, 15-11, including 3-2 on goal.
Despite the flurry of shots in overtime, the outcome of the defensive contest came down to penalty kicks to decide a winner.
Louisville went first in the penalty shots and Mohamed Thiaw's attempt sailed high before senior Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) found the right side of the net to give the Zips a 1-0 edge after one round.
Adam Wilson followed for the Cardinals knocking in his attempt in round two, before Will Meyer made a diving save on senior Pau Belana's (Barcelona, Catalonia) shot.
In round three, Tim Kubel gave Louisville a 2-1 advantage connecting on his shot to the left, while redshirt sophomore Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio) had his attempt thwarted by a stop from Meyer.
Akron junior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) made a key save on Adrien Cabon's attempt in round four to set the stage for senior Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) to even the penalty kicks at two, which he did with a strike to the left corner.
In the deciding fifth round, Tate Schmitt delivered a successful kick to the upper right before freshman Joao Moutinho (Lisbon, Portugal) stepped to the line and powered his shot into the back of the net to extend penalty kicks to sudden-death with the scored tied at three.
Sawyer Edwards addressed his shot for the Cardinals and went to the left where a diving Lundt thwarted the attempt with a brilliant save. Calming stepping to the line and delivering with a deft shot to the upper left was De Vera, who garnered the Zips' first victory in penalty kicks since edging California in the Elite Eight in 2010 en route to winning the national title.
Gainford and fellow senior Manuel Cordeiro (Porto, Portugal) directed Akron's offensive efforts on the evening registering a game-high four shots apiece. Adding two shots each was Holthusen and sophomore Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario). Schmitt led the Cardinals recording four shots.
Lundt earned his 10th shutout of the season on the strength of making a pair of saves, while Meyer also netted a clean sheet corralling three stops for Louisville.
Schmitt garnered the first shot on goal in the contest at the 12:24 mark, one pulled in for a save by Lundt.
The first half proved to be a defensive slugfest as neither team was able to find their offensive rhythm despite the Cardinals posting a 7-2 margin in shots, although just a 1-0 margin on frame.
Zajac just missed on a header that went wide from six yards out off a serve from Gainford in the 57th minute (56:06).
Gainford then delivered a ball from the top of the box at the 66:52 mark that went wide of the net.
Freshman David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria) struck the lone shot in goal in the second half as his header in the 90th minute (89:16) was pulled in for a save by Meyer.
The Zips finished the second half outshooting Louisville, 7-2, including 1-0 on goal.
A header by Holthusen at the 92:41 mark of the first overtime deflected off the crossbar before Gainford's shot attempt in the 94th minute (93:57) was blocked.
Cordeiro came alive for the Zips in the second overtime delivering strikes on goal at the104:40 and 106:46 marks, respectively, both of which were denied by saves by Meyer. His final shot attempt in the 109th minute (108:22) went wide.