AKRON, Ohio - The University of Akron men's soccer team garnered scoring contributions from four players as the Zips (11-5-3) registered a 4-0 victory past Western Michigan (9-6-4) in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Championship on Friday, Nov. 11, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Akron moves into the championship tilt on Sunday, Nov. 13, where the Zips will vie for their 13th MAC Championship crown battling Buffalo, who was a 2-1 overtime winner over Bowling Green in the other semifinal match. Game time is slated for 1 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The Zips bettered the Broncos on the evening in shots, 16-7, including a dominating 10-2 advantage over the final 45 minutes. Akron posted a 6-2 margin in shots on goal en route to collecting its 10th clean sheet of the season.
Redshirt sophomore Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) sparked the Zips in reserve duty with a game-high four shots, while redshirt junior Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) and freshman Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) added three and two shots, respectively. Diego Lopez led Western Michigan with a team-high four shots.
Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) made two saves in net for Akron to garner his 10th shutout of the year, including the eighth at home, while Drew Shepherd recorded two stops for the Broncos.
After a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes of play, junior Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) took control of a ball near the midfield and glided down the sideline in a 1v1 opportunity. He was able to move down the flank before sliding back into the box where he unfurled a laser that deflected off the shoulder of freshman Nick Hinds (Plantation, Fla.) into the back of the net for his team-leading seventh goal of the season at the 23:33 mark.
In the 36th minute (35:32), Western Michigan was whistled for a takedown in the box that resulted in a penalty kick for the Zips. Stepping to the line and delivering his fourth goal on the campaign was Gainford.
Akron carried a 2-0 lead into the intermission, outshooting the Broncos in the initial stanza, 6-5.
Earning the start to begin the second half, Kahsay nearly extended the Zips' margin to 3-0 at the 47:31 mark as he narrowly missed finding the back of the net on a 1v1 scoring opportunity.
It was not long before Zajac stretched the margin to 3-0 at the 51:54 mark striking his third tally of the year. Earning the assist on the goal was senior Goncalo Soares (Lisbon, Portugal).
Kahsay was rewarded for his tenacity going at the goal in the second half as he recorded his fourth goal on the campaign in the 60th minute (59:12). The tally was setup by a pair of beautiful passes from Hinds and fellow freshman Jonathan Lewis (Plantation, Fla.). The assist marked the team-leading 10th of the year for Lewis and fourth for Hinds.
Akron seeks its 31st NCAA Tournament appearance when the Zips face Buffalo in a rematch of the 2015 MAC finale on Sunday, Nov. 11.
Tickets for the MAC title game are now on sale online at www.GoZips.com/tickets.