AKRON, Ohio - The University of Akron men's soccer team erupted for a season-high four goals and made a strong defensive statement shutting out a high-powered Buffalo (8-3-1, 0-1 MAC) attack en route to registering a 4-0 victory in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams on Friday, Oct. 7, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The Zips (6-3-1, 1-0 MAC) parlayed a trio of first-half tallies into their sixth consecutive shutout on their home pitch this season.
Akron garnered a 17-14 advantage in shots in the affair, including posting an 8-3 margin in shots on goal. Redshirt junior Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) led all players with a game-high four shots, while senior Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J.) and freshman Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) added three shots apiece.
The Zips' defensive unit led by seniors Danilo Radjen (Broadview Heights, Ohio) and Brad Ruhaak (Akron, Ohio) turned in a dominating effort containing Buffalo's Russell Cicerone, the 2015 MAC Player of the Year, to three shots, only one of which fell on frame. Cicerone came into the affair averaging a goal and 4.6 shots per outing.
Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) was again stellar in net for the Zips registering a save en route to posting his sixth clean sheet of the season. In the process, Akron extended its run of not allowing a home goal in 2016 to 560 minutes. Dating back to the 2015 campaign, the Zips have not surrendered a home tally in nearly 580 minutes (577:38). Buffalo goalkeeper Joseph Kuta corralled four saves in the setback.
Ruhaak scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the fifth minute (4:19) delivering a header within the six-yard box past Kuta off a corner kick from redshirt junior Pau Belana (Barcelona, Catalonia). The tally was Ruhaak's second goal of the season.
Lewis nearly connected on his first career tally in the 20th minute (19:28) as his strike off a flick into the box from Najem went just high.
Redshirt junior Tyler Sanda (North Royalton, Ohio) extended the Zips' lead to 2-0 at the 38:25 mark striking a cross from freshman Jonathan Lewis (Plantation, Fla.) into the net for his second goal of the year. The assist on the tally was the team-leading sixth on the campaign for Lewis, who came into the affair as the nation's leader among assists for freshmen in Division I.
Sanda nearly added a second goal on the evening at the 43:20 mark as his attempt hit the post.
With only 59 seconds remaining before halftime (44:01), Buffalo was whistled for a foul in the box that resulted in a penalty kick for Akron. Stepping to the line and notching his team-best fifth goal of the season was Najem to give the Zips a 3-0 lead at the intermission.
Shots were all square at nine apiece in the opening stanza, with the Zips bettering Buffalo on frame, 4-1.
In the 71st minute (70:34), Najem had his shot hit the crossbar before redshirt sophomore Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) unfurled a strike that was denied for a save by Kuta at the 70:51 mark.
Zajac capped the scoring in the affair registering his first career goal off an assist from senior Goncalo Soares (Lisbon, Portugal) at the 87:59 mark.
Akron returns to action on Tuesday, Oct. 11, as the Zips travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a 3 p.m. showdown with No. 14 Michigan State.