KANSAS CITY, Kan. - An outstanding campaign for the University of Akron men's soccer team came to a close on Friday, Dec. 11, as Stanford (17-2-3) bested the Zips (18-3-3) in penalty kicks, 8-7, in the second semifinal of the College Cup at Sporting Park to advance to the national title game after the two sides battled for 110 minutes en route to a 0-0 double-overtime draw.
"We started slow the first half and we couldn't break Stanford's pressure," Akron head coach Jared Embick commented. "We started to get better in the second half and overtime. We couldn't create enough good chances, and I think Stanford created better chances than us the whole game. We needed to create more opportunities. It goes to PKs, and anything can happen, and it didn't go our way."
The Zips were bettered in shots in regulation, 12-10, including 6-2 on goal. Pacing Akron with three shots apiece was sophomore Richie Laryea (Toronto, Ontario (Canada)) and senior Sean Sepe (West Islip, N.Y.). Foster Langsdorf and Jordan Morris directed the offensive efforts for the Cardinal, each posting three shots.
Senior Jake Fenlason (San Diego, Calif.) capped an outstanding Zips' career registering six saves, each seemingly better than the last, en route to his ninth clean sheet of the year. Andrew Epstein netted a pair of stops in net for Stanford.
For the second consecutive season Akron's campaign ended in a double-digit penalty kick shootout.
The Zips garnered the early momentum in penalty kicks as Drew Skundrich's opening attempt missed the mark sailing wide.
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Sanda (North Royalton, Ohio) capitalized on the miss converting on his own to give Akron a 1-0 lead.
The Cardinal made their next three attempts with successful kicks from Brandon Vincent, Mark Verso and Jordan Morris, while connecting for the Zips was redshirt junior Brad Ruhaak (Akron, Ohio) and redshirt sophomore Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England).
Epstein made the save on junior Adam Najem's (Clifton, N.J.) shot as the two sides went to the fifth and final round all square at three.
Eric Verso and Adam Mosharrafa made the next two attempts for Stanford, while junior Victor Souto (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and senior Andrew Souders (Amherst, Ohio) matched the Cardinal to send the shootout to an seventh round tied at five.
Both Slater Meehan and redshirt junior Goncalo Soares (Lisbon, Portugal) failed to convert on their respective shots in the seventh round.
Brian Nana-Sinkham and Sam Werner made Stanford's eighth and ninth kicks, respectively, while matching them shot for shot was freshman Pau Belana (Barcelona, Catalonia) and sophomore Adi Dakwar (Fassouta, Israel).
In what proved to be the final round in penalty kicks, Corey Baird netted the winning kick, after Epstein recorded the save on sophomore Nate Shultz' (Mayfield, Ohio) attempt at an equalizer.
A defensive struggle highlighted the opening minutes of the affair as neither side recorded a shot until Corey Baird struck a shot for Stanford in the box that went wide in the 26th minute (25:29).
Fenlason made a sparkling save on a back-footed shot in front of the six-yard box Langsdorf at the 31:49 mark.
Langsdorf again got behind the Akron defense with a 1v1 opportunity in the 33rd minute (32:37), but Fenlason was key again with a diving save to thwart the scoring chance.
Sophomore Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) used some nifty footwork to attack the ball drawing a free kick with less than four minutes remaining in the first half.
The Zips were held without a first-half shot for the first time this season as they were outshot, 3-0. Akron's previous low was one shot in a 1-1 double-overtime draw at Western Michigan on Oct. 24.
A Morris header attempt sailed high on a Stanford corner kick at 49:47 mark, before Fenlason posted another stop on an Verso strike in the 52nd minute (51:20).
Holthusen recorded the Zips' first shot in the affair at the 57:59 mark, an attempt that was blocked.
Soares followed with a shot that went wide in the 59th minute (58:27).
Najem struck a ball at the top of the box that deflected off the defender for the block at the 62:21 mark.
Inserted into the game in the 59th minute (58:38), Sepe garnered the Zips' first shot on goal in the affair at the 62:49, one that was saved by Epstein.
Strong strike by Laryea narrowly missed the target on laser inside box that sails high at 79:22 mark.
A shot by Sepe with 10 seconds remaining in regulation was blocked.
The Zips bettered the Cardinal in shots in the initial overtime, 3-2, including a near game-winning shot from Laryea at the 97:31 mark, before Stanford edged Akron in the second overtime session, 2-1.
The game marked the final appearances in a Zips' uniform in the distinguished careers of Fenlason, Sepe and Souders.