MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sparked by three-second half goals, including a pair from junior Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario), the University of Akron men's soccer team captured its 15th Mid-American Conference Tournament title and 33rd NCAA Tournament berth with a 3-0 victory over Western Michigan (11-6-3) in the championship match of the MAC Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 11, at Dick Dlesk Stadium.
Akron (10-6-2) earned its seventh consecutive league tournament title with the triumph and will be making its 12th straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Akron has positioned itself with its postseason run to be under strong consideration for a top-16 national seed and a home tournament match when the NCAA reveals its 48-team tournament pairings on Monday, Nov. 12, at 1 p.m. on NCAA.com. There will be a watch party for the selection show on the seventh floor of InfoCision Stadium with doors opening at 12:30 p.m.
Zajac was selected as the Tournament Most Valuable Player, while seniors Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) and Abdi Mohamed (Westerville, Ohio) and freshman Carlo Ritaccio (Westbury, N.Y.) rounded out the all-tournament field for the Zips.
Akron outshot Western Michigan on the afternoon, 17-10, including 11-2 on goal. The Zips received a game-high three shots apiece from sophomore David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria), redshirt junior Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio), Mohamed and Zajac. Anthony Bowie led the Broncos with a team-best three shots.
Senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) earned his 26th career shutout as a Zip and sixth this season with a two-save performance, while Western Michigan goalkeeper Lukas Von Lienen made eight stops for the Broncos.
Locked in a scoreless affair at halftime, the Zips continued their aggressive offensive attack to begin the second half and were rewarded when Egbo scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 65th minute (64:32). Freshman Colin Biros (Canton, Ohio) served a ball into the box off a corner kick that senior Marco Micaletto (Rome, Italy) flicked to a charging Egbo, who found the back of the net for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.
The Broncos recorded their only shots on goal on the afternoon at the 65:24 and 68:42 marks, respectively, both were unrewarded after saves by Lundt.
Sparked by stout defensive play the entire match from freshmen Pol Hernandez (Teia, Spain), Marco Milanese (Isernia, Italy) and Ritaccio, along with Mohamed, sophomore Daniel Strachan (Lakewood, Ohio) and Lundt, the Zips continued to deny scoring chances from the Broncos.
Akron extended its advantage to 2-0 at the 84:53 mark when Zajac delivered his fourth goal of the season. Setting up the tally with a pair of strong passes for assists was Micaletto and Mohamed.
Zajac capped the scoring efforts scoring an empty-net tally in the 88th minute (87:49) to complete his second career multiple-goal. Earning the assist on the goal was Kahsay.
The victory enabled the Zips to extend their run of double-digit victory campaigns to 18 straight seasons.
Mohamed recorded Akron's first two shots of the game at the 4:46 and 14:24 marks, respectively, both attempts were saved by Von Lienen.
Harter nearly floated a shot from the top of the box into the net but an upward lunging Von Lienen deflected the ball out for the save.
Zajac recorded a shot on goal in the 19th minute (18:08) that was pulled in for the save before Biros had his strike on goal at the 28:50 mark denied with a save.
The Zips nearly garnered the first goal of the afternoon in the 35th minute as Harter's shot in the box was blocked before Micaletto rocketed the deflection towards net, only to see his attempted thwarted with a save.
Mohamed concluded the opening half with a shot on goal at the 43:10 mark, one that was saved by Von Lienen.
Akron posted a 13-3 advantage in shots in the opening stanza, including 7-0 on goal.
The Zips have now won four consecutive games and outshot SIU Edwardsville, West Virginia and Western Michigan by a combined 52-20 margin, including 22-7 on goal, in three MAC Tournament contests.