AKRON, Ohio - A 45th-minute (44:30) goal from junior Victor Souto (Sao Paulo, Brazil) proved to be all the scoring fourth-ranked Akron (15-3-2) needed en route to capturing the Mid-American Conference Championship title with a 1-0 victory past Buffalo (8-7-4) on Sunday, Nov. 15, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The triumph secured the Zips' 12th Mid-American Conference Championship title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the 30th time. Tournament play begins with opening-round games on Thursday, Nov. 19.
The Zips will receive strong consideration from the NCAA Selection Committee for a national seed, an opening-round bye, and a home game at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The NCAA will reveal the 48-team field on Monday, Nov. 16, at 1 p.m. ET on NCAA.com. Fans are invited to come watch the selection show with the Zips as a viewing part will by held in the Tommy Evans Lounge inside James A. Rhodes Arena with doors opening at 12:30 p.m.
Akron registered a 26-11 advantage in shots in the affair, including an 11-6 margin in shots on goal.
Redshirt sophomore Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) netted a game-high eight shots for the Zips, including three on frame. Sophomore Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) and junior Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J.) added four and three shots, respectively, while five different Akron players recorded two shots apiece. Russell Cicerone, the 2015 MAC Player of the Year, led the Bulls with a team-high four shots.
Senior Jake Fenlason (San Diego, Calif.) corralled six saves for the Zips en route to collecting his eighth shutout of the season, while Joseph Kuta made 10 stops for Buffalo.
The Zips dictated the pace of play in the initial stanza registering a 16-3 advantage in shots, but it was the Bulls' defense fueld by six saves from Kuta that kept Akron at bay until Souto's heroics.
Holthusen nearly netted the game's first tally at the 13:49 mark as only a diving save from Kuta prevented Holthusen's curving half-volley off a serve from the corner by senior Andrew Souders (Amherst, Ohio) from finding the back of the net.
Just under two minutes later in the 16th minute (15:43), a strong Kuta save denied redshirt sophomore Robby Dambrot (Akron, Ohio) from notching his first career goal off a strike from six yards out.
Souto was able to garner his sixth goal of the season with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Gainford served a ball into the box off a corner kick that was cleared out by the Buffalo defender. A charging Souto intercepted the clearance and capitalized with a strike that beat Kuta for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
The two sides waged through a defensive second half with the Bulls picking up their offensive pace recording eight second-half shots.
Buffalo was nearly awarded a penalty kick in the 66th minute as the Zips were called for a foul just outside of the box. Cicerone took the free kick, but Fenlason came up with the save to deny the scoring opportunity.
Freshman Pau Belana (Barcelona, Catalonia) delivered a strong scoring strike for Akron at the 78:49 mark that nearly found the back of the net, if not for a Kuta save.
Najem created a 1v1 scoring opportunity for the Zips in the 86th minute (85:10), one that was again thwarted by Kuta's save.
Named to the all-tournament team for Akron were Holthusen, Najem, Souders and Souto.