The UA Men's Soccer Insider

MLS Dreams for Akron's Luke Holmes

Photo Credit: Pam Moody/ISNSoccer.comLuke Holmes is a special talent who has made a name for himself at two levels of collegiate soccer. Holmes spent three seasons at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio. He became the program’s most prolific goalscorer, tallying an incredible 70 goals during his time with NDC Head Coach Michael McBride. Holmes added 25 assists for a total of 164 points in his time with the Falcons.

Holmes would then transfer to the University of Akron, a program fresh off a national championship and a record-setting MLS SuperDraft. The Oldham, England native stood out in the spring season, showing good pace and a knack for the goal. It certainly seemed that Holmes was heading for stardom as a Zip.The senior striker would go on to appear in 16 matches, netting 5 goals and 8 assists as the Zips claimed a 7th consecutive MAC regular season championship and a trip to the NCAA’s Round of 16. Holmes, who clinched game-winning goals at Buffalo and Florida Atlantic, always seemed to be there when his team needed him the most. He played his best in the postseason, where a “win or go home” mentality is ever present.

Holmes would then accept an invite to the prestigious MLS Combine, a pivotal moment in his young career. He certainly understands the importance of the occasion.

“I want to show what I can do,” Holmes declared in an interview with ISNSoccer.com. Several mock drafts have Holmes rated as high as #12 in the first round. A good combine performance could see his stock skyrocket even further, while a poor showing could leave him undrafted.

The senior was quick to praise both of his head coaches, Akron’s Caleb Porter and NDC’s McBride. Holmes clearly benefited from Porter’s professional environment and intense training sessions. This everyday preparation would help prepare him for MLS and beyond.

McBride started the project of turning Holmes into a pro player three years earlier, making him the face of the Notre Dame College men’s soccer program. Holmes excelled at the NAIA level, finishing as the NAIA National Player of the Year in 2010.

“Mac was great with me,” Holmes continued. “He understood my aspirations. I have nothing but good words to say.”

Coach McBride has plenty of compliments for Holmes as well. “Luke is the consummate student-athlete,” McBride stated. “He is the full package: a player like him doesn’t come along very often.”

McBride went on to say that Holmes was the best player in NDC history because of his competitiveness, superior fitness and technique, the ability to score goals at will, and a sense of humility despite being a star in waiting.

“Luke was a coach’s dream at the college level,” McBride continued. “He hasn’t even realized his full potential.”

Holmes can virtually play anywhere on the field, providing an attacking mindset to any position. He can play up top as a lone striker that stretches the defense, as a field general that creates opportunities for others, or as a winger or outside back that gets the team moving forward. In one word Luke Holmes is versatile. The only knock on Holmes is his lack of size, but his technical prowess more than makes up for that.

Holmes is currently training back home in England, preparing for the MLS Combine starting on January 6.

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Akron Men's Soccer Defeated by Charlotte in NCAA's Round of 16

Robert Ivory/ISNSoccer.comCHARLOTTE, NC - November 27, 2011 - A first-half goal by Charlotte proved to be the difference as The University of Akron men's soccer team suffered a 1-0 defeat to the 49ers at Transamerica Field Sunday night in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

The loss ends a remarkable season that saw the Zips return to the Round of 16 for the fourth consecutive year despite losing a Major League Soccer-record seven starters to the SuperDraft in January. UA, which was shut out for just the fourth time all season, finished with a record of 15-4-4. With the win, Charlotte (15-4-2), which improved to 9-0 at home in 2011, advances to the NCAA's Elite Eight where it will face the third-seeded UCONN Huskies, who defeated James Madison, 3-0, earlier in the day.

The 49ers scored the only goal of the match in the 25th minute when Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year Giuseppe Gentile buried a cross from Jennings Rex into the top right corner of the net. It was the first time the Zips had allowed a first-half goal all year. Akron, which out-shot Charlotte 11-6 for the match and 7-3 in the second half, had a number of chances to equalize but couldn't finish.

Its best opportunity came in the 63rd minute when DeAndre Yedlin crossed a ball into the box from the right flank. Darren Mattocks, who finished the season with 21 goals in 22 matches, put a head to it but Charlotte goalkeeper Klay Davis flicked it over the cross bar and out of play. UA appeared to pull even just minutes after the 49ers took the lead, but a foul negated the corner-kick goal. Scott Caldwell played the ball in to Wil Trapp, who volleyed it from the far post across the goal to the head of Matt Dagilis. The fifth-year senior banged the ball into the left corner of the net but was called for a push prior to the header. Akron goalkeeper David Meves had a tremendous second half, making a pair of key saves late to keep the Zips' comeback hopes alive. The first came in the 74th minute with a point-blank rejection of a shot from Evan James. The junior then turned away Gentile in the 81st minute on a breakaway. Conversely, Charlotte did a good job of containing Mattocks for much of the contest, limiting the nation's second-leading scorer to just three shots.

The match got off to a very slow start as a result of choppy play, which included three yellow cards – two by the 49ers – in the first 12 minutes. Charlotte was physical throughout the contest, drawing five cautions in total to UA's two.

Akron Advances in NCAA Tourney

AKRON, OH - November 17, 2011 - The University of Akron men's soccer team began its national championship defense with a convincing 3-1 victory over visiting Northwestern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field Thursday night.

With the win, the Zips (14-3-4) advance to face No. 6-seeded SMU (13-6-1) on the road Sunday at 8 p.m. (ET) Scott Caldwell, Aodhan Quinn and Darren Mattocks each found the net for UA, 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, champions of the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles, scored their lone goal in the 63rd minute on a penalty kick. UA'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 UA 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. NU cut the Akron lead in half when the Zips were called for a foul in the penalty area on a Wildcats' corner kick.

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. 

Akron Falls in Shocking Upset

AKRON, OH - November 11, 2011 - What started as a dream night for Akron native Matt Dagilis turned into a nightmare as the Zips fell to Western Michigan 4-3 on penalty kicks in the MAC Men's Soccer Championship. Dagilis appeared to be the hero for his hometown squad after scoring the first goal of the match, but Lady Luck quickly turned her back on Akron in this battle between the David and Goliath of the MAC.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Jr./ISNSoccer.comIt was a match that was dominated by Akron (13-3-4), which held advantages in possession and every statistical category other than fouls or saves. The score could have been 4-0 or 5-0, but opportunities didn't equal goals for the Zips attack. Physical play and a total of 34 fouls kept things tempered for both sides. Darren Mattocks, ranked third in the nation in total goals, had a rough night as Western Michigan (6-11-3) turned in some chippy play. The visitors pushed, shoved, tripped, and even tackled the Jamaican striker, making him largely ineffective moving forward. A stellar night by sophomore keeper Sean Lewis helped the #4 seeded Broncos stay in the game.

The first half produced 0 goals for either side, but that is not to say there weren't any opportunities. An early Dagilis header was turned away by the Broncos followed by a failed header from senior Luke Holmes in the 20th minute. Holmes was active in distributing the ball throughout the game and almost connected with a sliding Scott Caldwell minutes later for what could have been an easy goal for the Zips. In the 42nd minute a shot by Holmes took a nasty bounce off the right post. This was followed moments later by a Dagilis clearance that found its way to Mattocks, who manuvered around three W. Michigan defenders to take on the keeper. Lewis reacted quickly to deflect the shot from Mattocks, ending the run and yet another scoring opportunity for Akron. The Broncos went into halftime satisfied with the 0-0 scoreline, while the Zips were frustrated with the lack of quality finishing.

Akron would start the second half as a team with a mission and momentum seemed to shift their way. It appeared that the Zips would run away with the game when Dagilis scored off a header in the 65th minute. Akron began to find space in their opponent's defense and it seemed like the floodgates might open for the Akron attackers. The opposite happened as the Broncos equalized in the 84th thanks to a header from defender Doug Raak. The home crowd of 1,559 went quiet with shock as the teams finished regulation with no change to the 1-1 score. Two overtime periods came and went with no goals for either side, forcing a penalty kick shootout.

This scenario favored Akron with veteran David Meves manning the goal, but it was Western Michigan that jumped ahead 3-2 after a miss by Caldwell. Aodhan Quinn connected on the next attempt to keep things close, but Jason Grant converted for the Broncos to make it a do-or-die situation for Mattocks. Unfortunately for the #7 ranked Zips, Mattocks sailed his shot over the goal and left Western Michigan with a 4-3 advantage on PKs. The miss sparked a mass celebration for the Broncos players and coaches, who will move on to face Northern Illinois on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Akron will now shift its focus to the NCAA Tournament as it looks to repeat as National Champions. The Zips will have to wait until the NCAA Men's Soccer Selection Show Monday at 4:30 p.m. to determine their seeding for the NCAA Tournament. 

Match Photos

UA Men's Soccer Shuts Out Florida Atlantic in Regular-Season Finale

BOCA RATON, FL - November 6, 2011 - The No. 6 University of Akron men's soccer team found the net in each half and allowed just one shot on goal in a 2-0 victory at Florida Atlantic Sunday afternoon. Akron senior Luke Holmes netted the game winner in the 39th minute Sunday while sophomore Darren Mattocks added his team-leading 18th goal of the season in the 62nd minute.

It was the final match of the regular season for the Zips (13-3-3), who will host the Mid-American Conference Tournament next weekend at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field. As the No. 1 seed and MAC regular-season champion, UA will face No. 4-seed Western Michigan Friday at 5 p.m. (ET) in search of its fifth-straight conference tournament crown. With the win, the Zips recorded a perfect 6-0 mark in MAC play for the fourth consecutive season and have now won 27 consecutive contests versus the league. Moreover, UA extended its conference unbeaten streak to 37 games (35-0-2), which is the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history.

"It was great to end the regular season with a win and complete the conference portion with a perfect 6-0 record," UA head coach Caleb Porter said. "In all the years I've been coaching in the MAC, this year's team has probably won by a wider margin, in terms of results, than any other team I've had. Obviously, we will have to continue that next weekend for two more games, starting with the semifinal Friday at home."

UA dominated the league again this season, earning five shutouts in six matches and out-scoring the competition 17-2 overall. The Zips defense smothered the Owls all match and allowed just three shots (none on goal) after halftime. For the game, Akron doubled up Florida Atlantic on shots, 14-7. Junior goalkeeper Anthony Ponikvar recorded his first career win, logging all 90 minutes between the pipes for UA.

"We have certainly had some ups and downs throughout the season but we have played a very challenging schedule with a new group," Porter said. "To sit at 13-3-3 heading into the postseason shows our resiliency to grind out results while facing some of the best teams in the country, home and away."

Following the Zips' semifinal match against the Broncos at 5 p.m., No. 2-seeded Northern Illinois will face No. 3 Buffalo at 8 p.m. The winners of the two games will meet in the final, Sunday at 4 p.m.

"From here on out, it will continue to be about results," Porter added. "This team has been eager to start the postseason and it is finally upon us. All our goals are still in our grasp and if we play the way we are capable, there is no reason why we shouldn't succeed."

Akron's Home Unbeaten Streak Snapped by Michigan State

AKRON, OHNovember 2, 2011 - For the first time since the 2007 season, The University of Akron men's soccer team suffered a defeat on its home field Wednesday night when visiting Michigan State escaped with a 1-0 victory. The loss snapped an NCAA-record streak of 48 consecutive unbeaten matches at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

MSU's Adam Montague found Rubin Bega with space in the middle of the field, and at the 86:33 mark, Bega found the back of the net to sink the sixth-ranked Zips, who fell to 12-3-3 on the season. It was a cruel result for UA, which out-shot Michigan State 17-5 for the match and 14-4 in the second half alone. In fact, before Bega's game-winner, Akron had earned a 15-4 advantage on shots and a 5-3 margin on frame. UA had one last chance to find the equalizer just one minute later when Matt Dagilis, who made his second consecutive start at center back, appeared to break the goal line with a header following a corner kick by Scott Caldwell. But MSU keeper Jeremy Clark, who finished with six saves, came up with his biggest one of the night to deny the Zips.

It was the second of two unfortunate misses for Akron, which also saw freshman Wil Trapp ring the cross bar in the first half with a mid-ranged blast in the 29th minute following a quick restart. After being held to just three shots in the first 45 minutes, the Zips came alive after halftime; matching that total in the first eight minutes. Caldwell and Darren Mattocks, who finished with a game-high five shots, had chances to score during that surge but Clark was there to deny UA each time.

With the quick start, Akron was the clear aggressor in the second half and began to control the game with a number of additional scoring opportunities. The first came in the 67th minute when Luke Holmes skipped a great strike off a free kick from 23 yards out following a run by Thomas Schmitt. But Clark went down to his knees to scoop it up behind a wall of defenders. Another deep run by Schmitt led to second dangerous strike by Holmes off a free kick in the 75th minute that was punched out by Clark. Mattocks pounced on the rebound and redirected it back into the box but Clark was there once again to make the stop.

UA will wrap up the regular season Sunday at Mid-American Conference opponent Florida Atlantic. The Zips and Owls will kick off at 2 p.m. (ET).

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