MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – University of Akron freshman Carlo Ritaccio (Westbury, N.Y.) picked an opportune time to collect his first two collegiate goals as his scoring efforts lifted the fourth-seeded Zips (9-6-2) to a 3-1 victory over 12th-ranked and top-seeded West Virginia (13-6-0) in the semifinal round of the Mid-American Conference Men's Soccer Tournament on Friday, Nov. 9, at Dick Dlesk Stadium.
Akron now advances to the MAC title match where it will square off against third-seeded Western Michigan on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. The tilt will be broadcast on ESPN3.
The Zips statistically dominated the Mountaineers on the evening registering a 20-6 margin in shots, including 7-4 on frame, while also posting an 11-3 advantage in corner kicks.
Junior Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) directed Akron's offensive exploits with a game-high four shots, while senior Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) and sophomore David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria) added three shots apiece. Tsubasa Takada led West Virginia with a team-high three shots, while the Zips held Joey Piatczyc, the 2018 MAC Player of the Year, without a shot on the evening.
Senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) recorded three saves in net for Akron, while Steven Tekesky pulled in three stops for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia assumed a 1-0 lead just 11 seconds into the match as a defensive miscue allowed Andres Muriel Albino to connect on his sixth goal of the season.
The advantage was short-lived as Ritaccio collected his first career goal delivering a ball past Tekesky at the 1:43 mark to square the affair at one. Redshirt junior Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio) struck a corner kick into the box which was flicked by senior Abdi Mohamed (Westerville, Ohio) to Ritaccio for the goal.
Egbo struck a ball on net at the 18:05 mark that was saved by Tekesky, a strike that was part of five consecutive shots by the Zips, including Harter narrowly missing finding the corner of the net on a shot at the 22:34 mark.
Lundt made a near-post save off a shot by a Takada in the 26th minute (25:31) to deny a West Virginia scoring chance.
Freshman Colin Biros (Canton, Ohio) unleashed a shot on goal from outside the box at the 32:05 mark that hit the crossbar before bouncing back to freshman Marco Milanese (Isernia, Italy) who got a head on the ball off the deflection.
Kahsay delivered a shot at the 33:34 mark that went high before placing a ball on frame at the 34:33 mark that Tekesky thwarted with a save.
Kahsay headed home his fourth goal of the season off an assist from Biros in the 43rd minute (42:09) to give Akron a 2-1 lead, one they didn't relinquish. The tally proved to be the game-winning goal in the match.
The Zips maintained a 2-1 lead at the intermission on the strength of a 16-3 shot advantage, including 5-2 on goal.
The Mountaineers nearly squared the contest at two in the 57th minute (56.19) as Ryan Kellogg's strike sliced just wide of goal.
West Virginia needed a defensive clearance off the goal line at the 58:59 mark to prevent Mohamed from netting his first goal of the season.
Ritaccio garnered his first-ever multi-goal game in his Zips' career connecting on his second goal of the evening in the 66th minute (65:34). Playing a ball in from the top of the box to a streaking Zajac was Milanese, who then delivered a cross to the far post for Ritaccio, who buried the ball into the corner of the net to extend Akron's margin to 3-1. With the assist, Zajac has now scored a point in five of the Zips' last six matches.
Lundt sealed the victory for Akron making saves off of shots from Takada in the 81st (80:56) and 88th minutes (87:02), respectively.