Dec. 11, 2010

Kristen Leigh Porter,

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Trailing early against a team it had beaten 7-1 earlier in the season didn't seem to rattle the Akron men's soccer team in its NCAA College Cup semifinal Friday at Harder Stadium.

The third-seeded Zips (21-1-2) made the plays when it counted in a 2-1 win against Michigan (17-5-3) on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.

Akron advances into Sunday's championship match at 4 p.m. ET vs. top-seeded Louisville. The Cardinals (20-0-3) beat fourth-seeded North Carolina 2-1 in Friday's early semifinal.

"We focused on Michigan all week and no one else," Zips coach Caleb Porter said of his team's approach. "We did not take them for granted, I will tell you that."

Akron will bemaking its third title game appearance. The top-seeded Zips lost to Virginia in a penalty kick shootout in last year's NCAA College Cup final.

Their College Cup goal-scoring drought dating back to last year in the 74th minute in Friday's semifinal, when Akron junior defender Kofi Sarkodie scored off a Michael Nanchoff free kick, making up for an "unlucky" miss earlier in the match.

"I had a good sight of it, but it just skipped off my head," Sarkodie said. "I was telling myself that if I got another chance, I needed to put it away. Fortunately, for me today, Michael (Nanchoff) found me in a good spot and I put it away."

Considering that the last meeting between the two teams on Oct. 19 that tied a program record for the most goals allowed, the Wolverines transformed itself into the early aggressor. In the second minute, Michigan jumped ahead on an unassisted score by senior forward Justin Meram, his team-best fifth goal in NCAA Championship action.

"I just saw a clear path, took a touch, and when the defender stepped up on me I just took the shot," Meram said. "From there, I thought, `man, we can do this.'"

Michigan had its chance to score, most notably freshman forward Soony Saad's miss off the inside of the post in the 64th minute.

"We knew going into the game against Akron that we would not have a whole lot of possessions, they are a team that likes to move the ball around," Saad said. "I think we tried to make the most of our opportunities we had, I felt we had some good touches going forward and that we created some good chances."

Said Wolverines head coach Steve Burns: "One less layer of paint and that thing goes."

Freshman midfielder Perry Kitchen evened the score for Akron in the 33rd minute, his sixth goal of the season.

"You can't really key on any one guy and can't stop one side of the field because we've got both sides covered," Porter said. "We're balanced. I just know we're going to find a goal somewhere."