AKRON, Ohio - University of Akron freshman Nick Hinds (Plantation, Fla.) picked an opportune time to register his first career multi-goal game as his scoring efforts combined with a smothering defensive performance propelled the Zips to a 2-1 victory past Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Men's Soccer Championship game on Sunday, Nov. 13, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The triumph secured Akron's 13th MAC Championship title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the 31st time. Tournament play begins with opening-round games on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The 48-team NCAA Tournament field will be unveiled on Monday, Nov. 14, at 1 p.m. on NCAA.com.
The Zips garnered a season-best 25 shots in the affair, besting the Bulls in shots, 25-4, including 9-2 on goal.
Hinds and freshman Jonathan Lewis (Plantation, Fla.) each turned in a career- and game-high five shots for Akron, while redshirt juniors Manuel Cordeiro (Porto, Portugal) and Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England), redshirt sophomore Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea), senior Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J.) and junior Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) tallied four, three, three, two and two shots, respectively. Russell Cicerone paced the Buffalo attack with a pair of shots.
Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) recorded one save in net for Akron, while Joseph Kuta posted six stops for the Bulls.
The Zips dictated the pace of play in the initial stanza registering a 13-0 advantage in shots, but neither side was able to find the back of the net over the initial 30 minutes of play.
Gainford nearly gave Akron a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute (8:59) as his shot off a ball served into the box by Najem went just high of the net.
Lewis narrowly missed opening the scoring for the Zips at the 12:28 mark as his attempt off a ball fed into the box by Hinds went wide.
It was Hinds in the 18th minute (17:34) that flicked a ball just into the six-yard box that bounded just over the outstretched hands of Kuta over the net to deny the scoring opportunity.
Hinds secured a 1-0 advantage for the Zips at the 31:09 mark accepting a pass in from the corner of the box by Gainford and delivering the ball past Kuta for his second goal of the season.
Akron carried the one-goal margin into the intermission, as the squad did not allow a first-half shot by Buffalo.
Hinds capped his first career multi-goal effort in at the 52:32 mark scoring his third tally on the campaign off an assist from Lewis to give the Zips a 2-0 lead. The assist was the team-leading 11th of the year for Lewis.
The Bulls didn't record their first shot of any kind in the match until Cicerone connected on his team-leading 14th tally of the year in the 63rd minute (62:53) to cut the Zips' lead to 2-1.
Akron weathered the Bulls' energy following the goal and regained the momentum as the Zips continued to pepper Buffalo with 12 second-half shots.
Braden Culver had a solid play on net at the 72:51 mark that missed the mark sailing high.
A pair of strong passes courtesy of redshirt junior Pau Belana (Barcelona, Catalonia) and Lewis nearly resulted in the fifth goal of the season for Kahsay in the 82nd minute (81:13), if not for a key team save by the Buffalo defender.
Named to the MAC All-Tournament squad for Akron was Hinds, Holthusen, Najem and senior Brad Ruhaak (Akron, Ohio).