AKRON, Ohio -- Akron earned a convincing 3-1 victory against visiting Northwestern in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday night.

Scott Caldwell, Aodhan Quinn and Darren Mattocks each found the net for Akron, which is competing in its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament. It was also a big night for Luke Holmes, who added a pair of assists.

Akron dominated possession early, taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, and withstood a barrage of set-piece chances from Northwestern (11-5-5) in the second half before putting the game away. The Wildcats scored their lone goal in the 63rd minute on a penalty kick.

Akron's pressure resulted in a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute. Holmes made a nice run, splitting a pair of defenders before leaving the ball for Caldwell, who tucked his low liner from the top of the box just inside the left post.

The Wildcats nearly got the goal back in the 34th minute when Oliver Kupe got away from his mark and streaked down the left side of the field where he was one-on-one with Akron goalkeper David Meves on the left flank. But Meves, who recorded a number of highlight-worthy stops, came up with a great save, diving to his left to turn Kupe away.

Holmes was involved in another scoring chance in the 39th minute. This time, he was on the receiving end of a Quinn cross and sent a one-time volley off the cross bar.

Akron maintained its pressure after the break and found a second goal in the 55th minute. Michael Balogun initiated the play with a great lob from midfield that bounced around in the box. After a brief scramble, Quinn collected the ball and buried it from 19 yards out.

Akron was called for a foul in the penalty area on an Northwestern corner kick that allowed the Wildcats to cut the lead in half. But the goal was moot thanks to a beautiful combination play between Holmes and Mattocks in the 77th minute.

Mattocks received a final touch from Holmes in the near left flank and, from an seemingly impossible angle, punched the ball off the keeper's hands and the cross bar for his team-leading 19th goal of the season.