AKRON, Ohio – University of Akron men's soccer team parlayed a staunch defensive effort along with a goal from senior Morgan Hackworth (Bradenton, Fla.) in the 49th minute (48:49) into a 1-0 victory over No. 8 Creighton (9-3-1) on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The defensive performances of the Zips' backline of senior Abdi Mohamed (Westerville, Ohio), sophomore Daniel Strachan (Lakewood, Ohio) and freshmen Pol Hernandez (Teia, Spain) and Carlo Ritaccio (Westbury, N.Y.) along with redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Tor Saunders (Bothell, Wash.) limited Creighton, who came into the contest ranked fourth in the NCAA at 17.50 shots per game, to 10 shots en route to collecting the shutout.
Akron (6-5-2) registered a 14-10 advantage in shots on the evening, including a 6-3 edge on goal to secure the win.
Senior Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) paced all players with a game-high four shots for the Zips, while Ritaccio and junior Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) added two strikes apiece. Sven Koenig led the Bluejays with a game-high four shots, including three on frame.
In his first start and action of the season, Saunders made three saves for Akron in net en route to earning the clean-sheet triumph. Paul Kruse registered five stops for Creighton.
The Bluejays maintained the early pace of play in the tilt recording the initial four shots of the evening, including a save off of Koenig's shot at the 6:48 mark by Saunders.
In the 21st minute (20:37) redshirt junior Skye Harter (Copley) played a beautiful ball into the box to a surging Kahsay for a 1v1 opportunity. Unfortunately for Akron, Kahsay's shot went wide of target.
Inserted into the line-up at the 25:40 mark sophomore Dennis Cole (Freetown, Sierra Leone), playing in only his second game of the season, posted his first career shot as a Zip, one that was blocked in the box at the 27:26 mark.
In the 29th minute, Mohamed served a ball into the box to Strachan off a corner kick, one that he headed on frame before the shot attempt was punched out for a save by Kruse. The ensuing deflection swung to Ritaccio, who attempted a strike from three yards out that was blocked by the Creighton defender to thwart the scoring chance.
Ritaccio followed with a header attempt off a corner kick from Mohamed at the 31:32 mark, one that sailed wide.
The two sides entered the intermission locked in a scoreless draw with the Zips owning an 8-5 margin in shots.
Akron finally broke through in the 49th minute (48:49) when Hackworth headed home a pass from the corner of the box by Zajac for his second goal of the year and his first game-winning tally as a Zip. The assist was Zajac's team-leading fifth on the campaign.
Kahsay nearly found the back of the net at the 54:58 mark as his shot in the box off a pass from Ritaccio was blocked.
Less than three minutes later in the 58th minute (57:18), Harter played a ball into Zajac in the box, who got off a shot that was denied by a save from Kruse.
Redshirt freshman Braden Petno (Hudson, Ohio) and redshirt sophomore Diogo Pacheco (Lisbon, Portugal) each registered shots on goal at the 58:47 and 65:34 marks, respectively, for the Zips that were stopped by saves from Kruse.
Saunders completed the shutout recording saves off the foot of Koenig at the 71:43 and 86:29 marks, respectively.
In addition to Cole and Petno, Akron also got strong contributions off the bench from senior Marco Micaletto (Reading, England), redshirt junior Christian Lue Young (Plantation, Fla.) and freshmen Colin Biros (Canton, Ohio) and Marco Milanese (Isernia, Italy) to preserve the victory.
The Zips resume Mid-American Conference play traveling to DeKalb, Ill., to battle Northern Illinois in an 8 p.m. ET tilt on Saturday, Oct. 20