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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The University of Akron men's soccer team registered a dramatic 1-0 victory over top-seeded Wake Forest (18-3-0) in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 25, to earn a date with defending NCAA Champion Stanford in the Elite Eight.
The Zips (13-6-2) garnered their seventh consecutive triumph to advance to the Elite Eight for the second straight season and seventh time in program history.
Akron now travels to Palo Alto, Calif., to face the ninth-seeded Cardinal on Friday, Nov. 30, in a 9 p.m. ET match.
Junior Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) recorded the game-winning goal in the 46th minute (45:51) off assists from sophomore David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria) and senior Abdi Mohamed (Westerville, Ohio). The tally marked the eighth time in the last nine games in which Zajac has recorded a point for the Zips.
Akron withstood a talented Wake Forest attack which posted a 13-6 advantage in shots on the evening, including a 5-2 edge on goal.
Sparked by the defensive efforts of senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) along with Mohamed and freshmen Pol Hernandez (Teia, Spain), Marco Milanese (Isernia, Italy) and Carlo Ritaccio (Westbury, N.Y.) the Zips held the Demon Deacons, who came into the match owning the second-best scoring offense in the NCAA this season, without a goal for only the second time on the campaign.
Lundt was a rock for Akron in net making five saves en route to earning his seventh clean sheet of the year. The shutout was the 27th of his Zips' career to move him into third place in the all-time Akron men's soccer record book.
Egbo and senior Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) led the Zips with a team-high two shots each. Omir Fernandez led Wake Forest with a game-high three shots.
The Demon Deacons netted a furious second-half rally and nearly netted the equalizer with a minute to play as a goal from Aristotle Zarris was waved off due to an offsides call.
The contest proved to be a defensive battle from the start as neither side recorded a shot in the affair until Machop Choi posted a shot in the 16th minute (15:50), one that was denied by a save from Lundt.
Lundt again came up aces for the Zips making a diving save off of Choi's shot at the 25:18 mark.
Kahsay got off back-to-back shots in the 33rd minute (32:40/32:42) for Akron initial strikes of the game, both of which were blocked.
Akron's best scoring chance in the opening half came off a sequence commenced with a corner kick by freshman Colin Biros (Canton, Ohio) in the 34th minute as Egbo headed a ball inside the six-yard box at the 33:14 mark that was saved by Wake Forest goalkeeper Andreu Cases Mundet. The deflection off the save went to freshman Sam Tojaga (Erie, Pa.), whose header narrowly missed finding the corner of the net at the 33:27 mark.
The Demon Deacons nearly found the back of the net if not for a high-arching lunge for a save by Lundt off a strike from Isaiah Parente in the 42nd minute (41:11).
Each side recorded four shots in the initial stanza, with Wake Forest owning a 3-1 margin in shots on goal.
The Zips scored what proved to be the game-winning tally at the 45:51 mark when Zajac delivered his eighth goal of the season. A pair of strong passes in the box from Egbo and Mohamed allowed Zajac to find the back of the net with a sliding shot inside the six-yard box.
Aristotle Zarris narrowly missed netting the equalizer for the Demon Deacons in the 47th minute (46:41) as a free kick from Parente along the end line was placed into the box for the attempt which went wide.
A strike from 12 yards out in the middle of the box off the foot of Fernandez at the 51:04 mark again went wide to thwart the Wake Forest scoring chance.
Lundt followed with a stop off a shot from Fernandez in the 58th minute (57:15) to maintain Akron's 1-0 lead.
A 1v1 scoring chance from Justin McMaster was thwarted by a diving save by Lundt inside the six-yard box at the 69:19 mark.
The Zips had a 1v1 scoring opportunity of their own as Egbo's shot from 15 yards out off a pass from senior Morgan Hackworth (Bradenton, Fla.) went high over the goal.
Akron also received key reserve minutes in the match from Kahsay, redshirt junior Christian Lue Young (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), senior Marco Micaletto (Rome, Italy), redshirt sophomore Diogo Pacheco (Lisbon, Portugal), sophomore Daniel Strachan (Lakewood, Ohio), redshirt freshman Declan Watters (Dublin, Ireland) along with strong play from redshirt junior Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio).