AKRON, Ohio – A golden goal in the 92nd minute (91:09) from senior Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) propelled the third-rated and fifth-seeded University of Akron men's soccer team to a 3-2 overtime triumph past No. 13 Wisconsin (12-5-5) to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship on Saturday, Nov. 25, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The Zips (18-3-1) will square off against the advancing team in the showdown between fourth-seeded Louisville and Colgate, a match that is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 26. If the Cardinals join Akron in the Elite Eight, the matchup will be either Dec. 1 or Dec. 2 in Louisville, Ky., while a triumph by the Raiders will earn the Zips another home game on one of the same dates at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
On the strength of Holthusen's heroics, Akron has moved into the Elite Eight for the seventh time in program history (1967, 1986, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015).
Setting up the game-winning tally was senior Manuel Cordeiro (Porto, Portugal), who played in a ball from the endline that ricocheted off the leg of the Wisconsin defender to the foot of Holthusen, who knocked in his team-leading 12th goal of the season to begin a jubilant celebration for Akron.
The Zips won the battle of shots on the afternoon, 14-10, despite the Badgers bettering Akron in shots on frame, 6-5.
Senior Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) led the Zips' offensive efforts registering a pair of goals on the strength of a game-high five shots, including three on frame. Redshirt sophomore Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio) and Holthusen added three and two shots, respectively, for Akron, while Cordeiro collected a pair of assists. Mike Catalano netted a pair of goals for Wisconsin en route to joining Tom Barlow with a team-best three shots apiece. Chris Mueller, the NCAA leader in assists, added helpers on both of Catalano's goals.
Junior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) pulled in three saves for the Zips, while Akron's biggest stop was a clearance off the line in the 80th minute (79:30) for a team save by senior Nate Shultz (Mayfield, Ohio), that prevented the Badgers from assuming a 3-2 lead. Philipp Schilling finished the affair with a pair of saves for Wisconsin.
The showdown between Akron and the Badgers proved to be a tale of two halves as the Zips controlled the run of play for the majority of the opening period before Wisconsin found its rhythm for extended stretches over the final 45 minutes of regulation.
Mueller registered the first shot for either side in the game at the 12:22 mark, a strike off a free kick that Lundt made a diving save off of to prevent the Badgers from earning an early 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later in the 14th minute (13:07), Gainford delivered a shot from 25 yards out that beat Schilling for his ninth goal of the year to give the Zips a 1-0 advantage.
Freshman Joao Moutinho (Lisbon, Portugal) nearly pushed Akron's lead to 2-0 at the 14:35 mark as his strike deflected off the arm of Schilling before bounding up and hitting the bar before being cleared away to thwart the scoring chance.
Gainford's shot on goal in the 23rd minute (22:18) was denied by a Schilling save before Catalano netted the equalizer for the Badgers at the 25:35 mark. Mueller played a ball around the endline and into the center of the box where Catalano capitalized finding the back of the net for his ninth goal of the campaign.
Coming on as a reserve in the 29th minute (28:24), freshman David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria) narrowly missed giving the Zips a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission as his header attempt from inside six yards at the 43:17 mark pinged off the crossbar.
Akron bettered Wisconsin in shots in the opening 45 minutes, 8-3, with each team posting a pair of shots on frame.
A strong pass into the box in the 49th minute (48:59) from Holthusen nearly resulted in a goal as Gainford's shot went just wide of goal.
A feed from sophomore Nick Hinds (Plantation, Fla.) resulted in a 1v1 scoring opportunity for Gainford at the 64:38 mark, one that struck the side of the net.
Gainford did not miss on his next scoring chance as he connected for the goal, his career-best 10th tally of the season, in the 67th minute (66:51) to push the Zips ahead by one, 2-1. Cordeiro curled in a ball from left to right into the box where Gainford found the lower 90 to record his fifth career multi-goal effort, including two this year.
The Badgers appeared to net the equalizer at the 70:45 mark, but the goal was negated by an offsides call against Wisconsin.
Catalano squared the affair at two in the 77th minute (76:31) striking home his 10th goal of the season as he delivered a strike off a free kick from Mueller. The tally represented the first time in 22 contests on the campaign in which a Zips' opponent had garnered more than one goal against Akron.
The defense saved the day for Akron in the 80th minute (79:30) as Catalano connected on a shot in the box that only a clearance by Shultz prevented the Badgers from assuming a 3-2 lead.
A diving stop by Lundt at the 80:51 off a shot by Barlow kept the tilt even at two.
Wisconsin peppered the Zips' offensive third over the final 10 minutes of regulation as the Badgers recorded five corner kicks which resulted in a pair of shots for Wisconsin, including Barlow's attempt at the 82:23 mark that was saved by Lundt.
Akron capitalized in overtime as the first shot for either team enabled Holthusen to earn his 12th career game-winning tally, a total which includes a team-best six game-winners this season.
Gainford and Holthusen have each scored goals in the last three tilts for the Zips.