Dec. 4, 2010

Courteys of Akron Athletics

AKRON, Ohio -
The third-seeded University of Akron men's soccer team defeated sixth-seeded California, 3-2, in penalty kicks Saturday in front of 3,442 fans at Lee R. Jackson Soccer Field to return to the College Cup for the second consecutive season.

In all, it marks just the third time in school history the Zips (20-1-2) have advanced to NCAA soccer's version of the Final Four. UA will face 10th-seeded Michigan (17-4-3) in the national semifinal game next Friday, Dec. 10, in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The UA Department of Athletics will host an official send-off celebration Tuesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Stile Athletics Field House. Fans are encouraged to come to the free event on campus and show their support.

After playing to a 3-3 tie at the end of the second overtime period, UA goalkeeper David Meves made a pair of huge saves and Kofi Sarkodie, Akron's final shooter, netted the decisive blow. Cal finished the season with a 14-2-4 record.

Both teams failed to connect on their first penalty kicks and after Cal's A.J. Soares put the Bears up 1-0, UA's Perry Kitchen kept pace with a goal of his own. Meves then recorded saves on back-to-back attempts by Servando Carrasco and Davis Paul and Akron's Zarek Valentin put one past Bears' keeper David Bingham, who finished with seven saves for the game, as the Zips took a 2-1 advantage.

An Akron miss, combined with a goal by Cal's final shooter, Anthony Avalos, left the door open for the Bears. But Sarkodie slammed it shut with the game clincher. With the result, UA matched Tulsa (1988-92) for an NCAA record by extending their home unbeaten streak to 39 games, dating back to the 2008 season.

For the first time all year, the Zips found themselves trailing in a home game when Cal found the net in the 30th minute. Ted Jones sparked the play by sending a long pass to Avalon from near midfield. Avalon took the ball on the right flank and slotted the keeper far post from 13 yards.

But it didn't stay that way for long however as the Zips found the equalizer just 10 minutes later when a combination play from Darren Mattocks and Darlington Nagbe left the ball for Michael Nanchoff on the left flank. Nanchoff fired a low liner into the right corner of the net for his 10th goal of the season.

Then, just 34 seconds later, Akron jumped on top thanks to a costly turnover by the Bears and another beautiful combination play by the Zips. Nagbe stepped in front a Cal pass on the left side of the field in enemy territory and made a strong run towards the middle before sending a quick pass to Anthony Ampaipitakwong. Ampaipitakwong then pushed the ball to his right where Scott Caldwell scored his fourth career goal - all coming during this postseason - from 12 yards out.

The Bears pulled even in the 57th minute on a flurry of shots. Demitrius Omphroy uncorked the first attempt, which resulted in a great diving save by Meves. But Meves, who finished with three saves on the night, could do nothing with the second shot as Tony Salciccia fired the rebound into the net.

Kitchen put the Zips back on top in the 76th minute with a strike from the top of the box, but Cal's John Fitzpatrick received a long pass from midfield and scored an improbable goal with just 1:31 left in the second half to force overtime.