AKRON, Ohio - The third-ranked University of Akron men's soccer team picked an opportune time to play arguably its best game of the season as the Zips (16-3-2) opened NCAA Tournament play with a 6-1 victory over Rutgers (12-7-2) on Sunday, Nov. 22, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Akron advances to the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last eight seasons and first since the 2012 with the triumph. The Zips will host the winner of the game between Denver and SMU on Sunday, Nov. 29. Game time is 4 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Akron's six goals in the contest marked the most for the Zips in an NCAA Tournament affair since registering a 7-0 victory past Green Bay in 1983.
After a slow start to begin the game, the Zips capitalized when senior Sean Sepe (West Islip, N.Y.) was tackled in the box to earn Akron a penalty kick at the 4:56 mark. Stepping to the line for the penalty kick was junior Victor Souto (Sao Paulo, Brazil), who calmly struck the ball into the back of the net for his seventh tally of the season to give the Zips a lead they didn't relinquish.
Sophomore Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) extended Akron's margin to 2-0 in the 13th minute (12:28) accepting a pair of strong passes from Sepe and finally sophomore Richie Laryea (Toronto, Ontario (Canada)) and delivering his sixth goal on the campaign.
Seventeen seconds later, Laryea pushed Akron's lead to 3-0 connecting on an unassisted tally at the 12:45 mark. The goal was Laryea's team-leading 10th of the season.
Holthusen netted his second goal of the contest and his third multi-goal tilt of the year in the 17th minute (16:09), scoring off a set piece to give the Zips a 4-0 advantage. Junior Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J.) garnered his team-leading ninth assist of the year on the play.
Laryea posted his team-best fourth multi-goal performance on the campaign finding the back of the net for the 11th time in 2015 at the 17:39 mark.
The Zips entered the intermission holding a commanding 5-0 lead on the strength of recording a 14-6 margin in first-half shots, including 8-1 on frame.
Sepe capped the scoring explosion for Akron in the affair netting his second goal of the season off a Najem assist in the 60th minute (59:50).
Sugor Al Awwad spoiled the Zips' bid for a clean sheet in the contest delivering his second goal on the campaign at the 80:08 mark. Mitchell Tainer earned the assist on the score.
Akron finished the affair registering a 25-10 margin in shots, including a decisive 12-3 mark in shots on goal.
Twelve different Zips record a shot in the game, led by a pair of four-shot performances from Holthusen and Laryea. Notching three strikes in reserve action was sophomore Adi Dakwar (Fassouta, Israel), while redshirt junior Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England), redshirt junior Brad Ruhaak (Akron, Ohio), Sepe, redshirt sophomore Robby Dambrot (Akron, Ohio) and sophomore Anthony Macchione (Camas, Wash.) each collected two shots apiece.
Taintor and Erik Sa paced the Scarlet Knights with two shots each. Akron turned in a strong defensive effort limiting Rutgers' leading scorer and Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Jason Wright, to only one shot.
Senior Jake Fenlason (San Diego, Calif.) notched two saves for the Zips, while David Greczek made six stops for the Scarlet Knights.
The multi-goal efforts from Holthusen and Laryea marked the first for an Akron player in a NCAA Tournament game since Reinaldo Brenes netted a pair of tallies in a 3-2 opening-round victory against Indiana in 2013.
The victory enabled Akron to improve to 14-4-7 in NCAA Tournament games since 2005, while also pushing the Zips' record this season versus the Big Ten Conference to 4-0-1.
Akron's win also enabled the Zips to go to 10-0-2 at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field in NCAA Tournament contests since 2008.
Based on the outcome of the affair between Denver and SMU, Akron would either face the Pioneers for the first time in program history, or encountering SMU for the fourth time. The Zips own a 2-1-0 series advantage over the Mustangs, including a 3-2 NCAA Tournament second-round road triumph in 2011.