KALAMAZOO, Mich. – A pair of second-half goals from senior Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) and Manuel Cordeiro (Porto, Portugal) spurred the fourth-rated University of Akron men's soccer team to a 3-1 victory over top-seeded and No. 4 Western Michigan (16-3-1) in the title game of the Mid-American Conference Championship on Sunday, Nov. 12, to give the Zips (16-3-1) their 14th MAC Tournament title and 32nd NCAA Tournament berth.
Akron is expected earn at least a top-eight national seed when the NCAA reveals its tournament pairings on Monday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m. on NCAA.com. There will be a watch party for the selection show in the Tommy Evans Lounge at James A. Rhodes Arena with doors opening at 12:30 p.m. There will be free food for first 100 students, giveaways and prizes for fans in attendance.
The Zips outshot the Broncos in the affair, 17-10, including 6-5 on goal. Senior Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand), who was named the tournament Most Valuable Player, led all players with a game-high five shots. Three different Western Michigan players recorded a pair of shots.
Junior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) made three stops in net for the Zips, while Drew Shepherd pulled in three stops for the Broncos.
Also named to the All-Tournament team for Akron was Cordeiro, Holthusen and freshman Joao Moutinho (Lisbon, Portugal).
Holthusen gave the Zips their best scoring opportunity in the 37th minute (36:23) as his header was deflected up by Shepherd and cleared off the line by defender Jake Rufe.
The ball was then cleared out of the box where senior Niko De Vera (Camas, Wash.) served a ball into the box where Holthusen struck the ball and found the back of the net for his team-leading 10th goal of the year at the 36:30 mark.
The Zips were on the verge of taking a 1-0 lead into the intermission before a header shot by Ben Thornton in the 45th minute (44:47) was cleared off the line for a team by De Vera. The deflection was punched in by Thornton two seconds later at the 44:49 for the equalizer and his fourth goal of the season.
Akron outshot the Broncos in the opening stanza, 10-2, including 3-1 on frame.
A corner kick from redshirt sophomore Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio) in the 56th minute (55:04) sent a ball into the box that Gainford got a foot on and converted into his seventh tally of the season at the 55:10 mark to give the Zips a 2-1 advantage.
Western Michigan had strong scoring chances late in the game, but was denied by the defensive efforts of the Zips.
Cordeiro capped the scoring in the affair with a goal in the 78th minute (77:24) off assists from sophomore Nick Hinds (Plantation, Fla.) and Gainford.
More details on today's game to follow later.