MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - For the sixth-ranked Akron men's soccer team it was only fitting that redshirt junior team captain Brad Ruhaak (Akron, Ohio) netted what proved to be the game-winning goal propelling the Zips (12-2-2, 3-0-1 MAC) to at least a share of their 18th Mid-American Conference regular season title with a 2-0 victory at West Virginia (6-10-0, 1-3-0 MAC) on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
"I'm proud of the team," Akron head coach Jared Embick commented. "We had to play most of the game without two of our key offensive weapons, but we stepped up and got a big victory on the road. We clinched at worse a share of first place in the MAC. This effort really showed the strength of our team and the depth. Now I'm looking forward to a really fun game Sunday against UCLA."
The game-winning tally came courtesy of Ruhaak at the 3:00 mark. Junior Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J.) served the ball into sophomore Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) on the play, who flicked the ball to Ruhaak for his second goal of the season. Ruhaak also scored in Akron's 2-1 victory at Buffalo on Oct. 9.
The Zips outshot the Mountaineers on the evening, 9-8, despite being outshoot on goal, 4-3.
Junior Victor Souto (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and redshirt sophomore Sam Gainford (Liverpool, England) directed Akron's offensive attack with two shots apiece, while five other Zips registered one shot each. Jamie Merriam led all players with a game-high three shots for West Virginia.
Senior goalkeeper Jake Fenlason (San Diego, Calif.) pulled in a game-best three saves for Akron en route to earning his sixth shutout of the year. Daniel Diaz made two stops in goal for the Mountaineers.
Following Ruhaak's early score for the Zips, redshirt sophomore Robby Dambrot (Akron, Ohio) and Holthusen each had their respective shots blocked in the 26th (25:56) and 44th (43:15) minutes.
The Zips entered the intermission maintaining a 1-0 lead on the strength of outshooting the Mountaineers in the initial stanza, 5-1, including 1-0 on goal.
West Virginia recorded the first three shots of the second half with two of the strikes being corralled by Fenlason for saves.
Gainford extended Akron's margin to 2-0 at the 66:38 mark collecting his seventh goal on the campaign on the Zips' first shot of the final period. Diaz came out of the box to pull in the cross on the play but slipped allowing Gainford to net the tally off an assist from Souto.
The Mountaineers nearly spoiled the shutout bid in the 68th minute (67:35) if not for a pivotal defensive play by senior Andrew Souders (Amherst, Ohio), who cleared out Joey Piatczyc's shot for a team save.
Fenlason again came up with the save on Jack Elliott's shot attempt at the 75:02 mark.
Souto struck a shot on goal in the 82nd minute (81:54) that pulled in for a save by Diaz.
Souders capped the shot count for Akron on the evening adding a shot for the Zips at the 85:16 mark, one that sailed high.
Akron returns to action on Sunday, Nov. 1, as the Zips welcome No. 25 UCLA to FirstEnergy Stadium - Cub Cadet Field for a 1 p.m. matinee affair.