AKRON, Ohio – On a night when the fifth-rated University of Akron men's soccer team honored its nine seniors, it was fitting that Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) and Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) combined to score three goals to spark the Zips (14-3-1, 4-1-0 MAC) to a 4-0 triumph past Northern Illinois (3-11-1, 0-4-1 MAC) on Saturday, Nov. 4, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The clean sheet marked the fourth consecutive shutout for Akron and 10th overall on the campaign.
Akron now turns its attention to next weekend's Mid-American Conference Tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich., where the Zips will open competition as the No. 2 seed playing at either 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10. Tournament pairings will be announced by the league on Sunday, Nov. 5.
Holthusen continued his recent scoring tear registering tallies in the 61st (60:27) and 66th (66:50) minutes, respectively, to record his team-leading seventh career multi-goal effort, including two this season. Even more impressive is the fact that Holthusen has netted six of his team-best eight goals on the campaign in the last three contests.
Gainford collected what proved to be the game-winning tally at the 18:07 mark, while sophomore Reggie Laryea (Toronto, Ontario) added his first goal of the campaign in the 90th minute (89:16).
The Zips outshot the Huskies on the evening, 22-4, including 11-2 on goal. Gainford and Holthusen directed Akron's offensive exploits garnering a game-high four shots apiece, while sophomore Nick Hinds (Plantation, Fla.), freshman Joao Moutinho (Lisbon, Portugal), sophomore Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) and redshirt junior Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) added three, two, two and two shots, respectively. Four different Northern Illinois players recorded a shot.
Earning his fourth straight shutout and eighth on the campaign was junior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany), who made one save, while Konrad Dziedzic pulled in six stops for the Huskies. The clean sheet for Lundt was the 18th of his career moving him into eighth place on the all-time list at Akron.
Both teams nearly surrendered goals in the opening minutes of the game as only team saves prevented tallies for each side.
Senior Manuel Cordeiro (Porto, Portugal) unleashed a shot for the Zips at the 6:22 that was denied by a clearance by Northern Illinois' Ethan Pitre.
Just over six minutes later in the 13th minute (12:37), Jan Maertins let loose on a strike in the box for the Huskies in which Moutinho cleared off the line for another team save.
After opening the contest bettering the Huskies in shots, 6-1, Gainford collected his sixth goal of the season at the 18:07 mark off an assist from Hinds. The tally proved to be the game-winning goal for Akron.
Neither team was able to punch in a goal the remainder of the half as the Zips entered the intermission leading 1-0, having best Northern Illinois in shots, 13-2, including 8-1 on net.
In the 61st minute (60:27), Holthusen extended Akron's advantage to 2-0 capitalizing on a pair of assists from Moutinho and freshman David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria). Moutinho played the ball into the box to Egbo, who with a quick flick of the ball off his head placed the ball perfectly to Holthusen, who converted the scoring chance.
Holthusen earned the brace with his score at the 65:50 mark as his near half-bicycle shot found the back of the net for his team-leading eighth goal of the year. Senior Niko De Vera (Camas, Wash.) and junior Morgan Hackworth (Bradenton, Fla.) garnered assists on the score.
Laryea capped the scoring on the night with his first goal of the season and second of his career, in the 90th minute (89:16) off an assist from Kahsay. Laryea's first career goal came last season in a 7-0 victory by the Zips over the Huskies.
With the triumph, Akron kept alive the possibility of earning a share of the MAC regular season crown. A win by Bowling Green over Western Michigan in an 11 a.m. tilt on Sunday, Nov. 5, would provide the Zips that opportunity, while a triumph or tie by the Broncos secures the outright title for Western Michigan.
West Virginia bettered SIU Edwardsville, 2-1, in overtime on Saturday, Nov. 4, forcing a myriad of possibilities for the exact seeding of the final two teams for next weekend's MAC Tournament. The Cougars have secured a berth in the championship, while the outcome of the Western Michigan-Bowling Green contest will determine the final member of the four-team field. A win or tie by the Falcons is expected to push Bowling Green into the field.
Prior to the match, the Zips honored Pau Belana (Barcelona, Catalonia), Nate Brown (Scarborough, Ontario), Cordeiro, De Vera, Dener Dos Santos (Joinville, Brazil), Gainford, Holthusen, Barth-Luther Mouafo (Douala, Cameroon) and Nate Shultz (Mayfield, Ohio) in Senior Night festivities.
Akron opens MAC Tournament play on Friday, Nov. 10, in Kalamazoo, Mich., versus either SIU Edwardsville or Bowling Green in semifinal action. Complete tournament pairings and game times will be announced by the league on Sunday, Nov. 5.