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Akron bests Villanova, 2-0, in NCAA opener

Published: November 17, 2016

AKRON, Ohio - University of Akron freshman Nick Hinds (Plantation, Fla.) registered his second consecutive two-goal effort to spark the Zips (13-5-3) to a 2-0 triumph over Villanova (10-8-3) in the opening round of the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament on Thursday, Nov. 17, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

By virtue of its victory, Akron advances to battle seventh-seeded Indiana (11-1-7) on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 1 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind. The Zips will be meeting Indiana for the seventh time in NCAA Tournament play and first since Akron bested the Hoosiers, 3-2, in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

The victory allowed the Zips to improve to 16-4-8 in NCAA Tournament games since 2005. Akron's win also enabled the Zips to go to 13-0-2 at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field in NCAA Tournament contests since 2008.

The Zips controlled the run of play throughout the affair registering a 20-2 advantage in shots, including 9-0 on goal.

Redshirt junior Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) recorded a game-high eight shots for Akron, while Hinds and redshirt sophomore Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) contributed five and three shots, respectively. Zach Zandi accounted for the Wildcats' two shots.

Hinds' multi-goal outing marked the first for a Zip in NCAA Tournament play since junior Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) scored a pair in Akron's 6-1 victory past Rutgers in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) didn't need to make a save for the Zips en route to posting his 11th shutout of the season. Will Steiner netted six stops for Villanova.

After an opening 10 minutes of play where each side looked to execute its game plan without finding the back of the net, Hinds nearly capitalized for Akron at the 13:06 mark off a pair of corner-to-corner passes from Gainford and Holthusen, but unfortunately, his shot on goal went just wide.

It was Gainford's strike on frame off a feed from senior Goncalo Soares (Lisbon, Portugal) that again narrowly missed giving the Zips a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute (30:34).

Gainford continued to attack on the offensive end unfurling a shot at the 38:17 mark which was denied finding the back of the net by a team save, before his follow-up attempt at the 38:23 mark was blocked.

Following a failed defensive clearance by Villanova, Hinds corralled the ball and unleashed a shot that bested Steiner in the 39th minute (38:34) to score what proved to be the game-winning tally.

The Zips entered the intermission maintaining a 1-0 advantage on the strength of a 9-1 margin in shots in the opening stanza.

Gainford and senior Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J.) worked to stretch Akron's lead in the opening minutes of the second half registering strikes which were saved by Steiner at the 49:27 and 51:53 marks, respectively.

Kahsay proved an offensive threat in the second half contributing all three of his shots over the final 45 minutes.

Hinds' second goal of the evening was set-up by a spectacular save of a ball destined to roll out of play on the sideline by the Akron bench by Soares. He was able to save the ball and serve the ball down the line where freshman Jonathan Lewis (Plantation, Fla.) was able to make a spin move on the defender and push the ball into the box finding Hinds for the goal at the 72:53 mark. The assist was the team-best 12th on the campaign for Lewis.

The Zips clamped down defensive over the final 17 minutes to register their 11th clean sheet of the season and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for ninth time in the last 10 years.

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