The University of Akron men’s soccer team saw its NCAA Tournament run come to an end in the second round with a 1-0 defeat to No. 9-seed Marquette in freezing temperatures and a rock-hard playing surface at Valley Fields Sunday night.
After a scoreless regulation, the Golden Eagles (13-5-2) bagged the Golden Goal in the first overtime period with just 23 seconds left. Coco Navarro, who got free when an Akron defender slipped and fell to the ground, finished a long cross from Adam Lysak to give Marquette its first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
“It was disappointing for two teams who like to play soccer to have their game decided by the conditions of the field,” said UA head coach Jared Embick. “But give Marquette credit. They found a way to make a play.”
“Both teams had to hit long balls in the channels to decide the game. It’s not what you want. Both teams had to adapt through it and unfortunately, a slip on the field hurt us in the moment, and (Marquette) capitalized.”
It was a startling conclusion for the Zips (17-4-1), who nearly won the match in regulation when Zac Portillos banged a liner off the right post in the 76th minute. Then, just five minutes into overtime, Akron thought it had won a penalty kick opportunity when Reinaldo Brenes appeared to be tackled from behind in the box but no call came.
With temperatures that hovered in the low 20s and wind that made it feel much colder, players on both sides struggled to get solid footing on the frozen pitch and the pace of play suffered as a result.
After being out-shot 10-5 in the first half, UA settled in after the break and had the better of play but couldn’t cash in. Third-year sophomore Jake Fenlason turned in another commendable performance with nine saves – the most by an Akron goalkeeper all season – in a losing effort.
Much of the action took place in the middle third of the field in the first half.
The Zips had their best chance of the half in the 34th minute when Eric Stevenson chipped a ball over a Marquette defender for Brenes, who was streaking down the left side of the field. Brenes took a quick touch to avoid the MU goalkeeper, who had come off his line, but couldn’t quite get control of it as his shot hit the side netting.
Fenlason had to make three saves in the opening period as the Zips dealt with a number of dangerous crosses by the Golden Eagles. MU’s best look came in the 27th minute when a cross found C. Nortey with space in the midde of the box but hooked it wide of the left post.
In all, the Golden Eagles, who captured their first Big East Tournament Championship last weekend, out-shot the Zips 19-15. With the win, Marquette advances to play at No. 8-seed Virginia in the third round of the NCAA Tournament next Sunday (Dec. 1).