SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The University of Akron men's soccer team will play for a national title after a five-goal explosion lifted the Zips (15-6-2) to a 5-1 victory over Michigan State (14-5-4) in the first semifinal of the College Cup on Friday, Dec. 7.
Akron will square off against Maryland on Sunday, Dec. 9 in an 8 p.m. ET tilt on ESPNU.
The Zips became the fourth unseeded team to reach the championship match of the College Cup since the tournament expanded to 48 teams in 2001 joining Charlotte (2014), UC Santa Barbara (2006) and Stanford (2002).
Akron will play for the national title for the fourth time in program history and first since 2010 on the strength of the squad's ninth consecutive triumph.
The Zips garnered goals from sophomore David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria), freshman Carlo Ritaccio (Westbury, N,Y.), redshirt junior Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio), junior Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) and redshirt freshman Braden Petno (Hudson, Ohio) en route to posting the victory.
Akron was outshot on the evening, 13-12, with each side collecting seven shots on goal.
Senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) was stout in net for the Zips recording five saves, while senior Abdi Mohamed (Westerville, Ohio) cleared a ball off the line for a team save in the first half. Jimmy Hague made a pair of stops for the Spartans.
The opening minutes of the first half proved to be a feeling out period for both teams as neither side posted a shot until Egbo struck a shot high at the 13:33 mark.
The Zips struck first in the affair as Harter served a ball into the box which was headed off the crossbar by senior Morgan Hackworth (Brandenton, Fla.) in the 15th minute before Egbo knocked in the deflection for what proved to be the game-winning tally. The goal was Egbo's team-leading 13th tally of the year.
Lundt made the first of five clutch saves in the match as his sliding stop at the 13:33 mark thwarted a 1v1 scoring chance by Hunter Barone.
He was even more impressive denying a strike by DeJuan Jones in the 25th minute (24:37) before Mohamed cleared a shot from Ryan Sierakowski off the line for a key team save at the 24:56 mark.
Akron extended its advantage to 2-0 in the 32nd minute (31:06) as Ritaccio headed home a ball served into the box off a corner from freshman Colin Biros (Canton, Ohio) for his third goal of the season.
Senior Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) capped the half with a shot on goal at the 35:23 mark that was saved by Hague.
The Zips posted a 5-4 advantage in first-half shots, while each side collected three shots on frame.
Lundt denied a shot on goal in the 48th minute (47:18) with a kick save off the strike from Robbie Cort.
Zajac drew a foul outside the box at the 52:26 mark that gave Harter a free kick. Harter struck the ball perfectly finding the top of the net for his second goal of the season.
Lundt again thwarted a shot on goal by Jones in the 58th minute (57:23) for a save.
Hackworth set up the Zips' fourth tally of the evening slicing a pass into a streaking Zajac, who dribbled past the defender before unleashing a strike that found the back of the net at the 64:19 mark. Zajac has now scored a point in 11 of Akron's last 12 matches.
Making his final save of the night in the 78th minute (77:46) off a shot from Michael Miller was Lundt.
The Spartans denied the shutout when Patrick Nielsen headed home his third goal of the year off an assist from Jack Beck at the 78:32 mark.
Petno capped the scoring efforts for Akron registering his first career goal knocking in a deflection off of a strike by redshirt freshman Daniel Oliveira (Lisbon, Portugal) in the 85th minute (84:46). The score marked the first career points for both Petno and Oliveira.