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UA Men’s Soccer Season Ends In Overtime At Marquette

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).

ISN Stars of Coaching Presented by Korrio – February 2013

One thing is for certain. The University of Akron is known for soccer. Caleb Porter helped put the Zips on the soccer map, but the women’s program is now the program on the rise.

The program experienced an encouraging 2012 fall season that showed progress on all fronts, including setting the program record for attendance on September 28th.

But the biggest reason for optimism is a strong coaching staff, led by head coach Vernon Croft and assistant Keri Sarver.

Many regard Sarver as one of the best young coaches in the country. Croft agrees.

“Keri is one of the finest young female coaches in the game, not just our state or region but in the country.  Her experience at the Women’s National Team level coupled with her professional playing experience has been a big asset to our players and staff in the continued development of our program.”

Sarver’s journey back to Northeastern Ohio has been just that, a journey.

“I moved back here to be a youth coach. I wanted to do that to be connected to the soccer community where I grew up, in order to give back to the game that had given me so much to me. To be able to take that to the next level in college is just another wonderful opportunity and blessing I have been given.  To do it right here in my backyard is icing on the cake.”

She has gotten the job done as a player, going from Jackson High School in Massillon, Ohio to the University of Maryland to a career as a pro in the WUSA. Sarver is arguably the best female soccer player to ever come out of the Buckeye State. She certainly is one of the most decorated players, claiming honors as a Parade All-American, a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick, an All-American selection, Maryland’s Female Student-Athlete of the Year, the ACC’s James Weaver-Corrigan Award, and being chosen for the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team.

To top it off, Sarver was also part of the U.S. Women’s National Team pool.  Her list of accolades and honors is impressive and intimidating at the same time.

She is also known as a record-breaker, holding school records in every offensive category in both high school and college. It would be no surprise that Sarver would play for three pro teams before playing and coaching in the USL’s W-League.

The coaching side of her career blossomed with the Cleveland Internationals, an organization with offerings at every level. She has been the Director of Coaching there since 2008. Her teams have claimed championships at every level, from state championships to national titles. Sarver has also helped over 100 players follow their dreams of collegiate soccer.

“The club has been in the area for the 35 years. The core leadership has been in place since the beginning. It is a club with a great history and culture.  I am just trying to take it one quite step further. By being a player that has been in the environment and gone on to play at a high level and being able to come back and share those experiences.”

Now she is helping develop collegiate players for the next step: professional soccer here and abroad. Who better to help them? A highly decorated former pro sounds like the ticket to me.

It took only a short time to see results as two Zips headed to Germany to turn pro after finishing their careers at Akron.  Jordan Clark and Kara Cooper are both playing with Karlsruhe SC, a Bundesliga team in SW Germany.  And both credit Sarver and Croft for helping them get there.

The news means a great deal to the program as a whole.

“There is something else out there.  They can continue their love and passion and continue their growth in the game.”

Sarver herself is bullish on the women’s game as a whole and is particularly excited about the NWSL.

“The one major improvement in the business model is that U.S. Soccer is subsidizing the salaries of the players in the national team pool.  Women’s soccer in this country is such a good product. It is just a matter of continuing to develop that product and get the fans to buy in and support it.”

Just because America was one of the first pioneers in the women’s game worldwide doesn’t mean there isn’t massive competition today and in the future.

“The rest of the world has caught up; we still have the edge physically and psychologically.  The women’s game is growing so fast around the world that it is forcing us to take another look at it from a developmental perspective.”

Developing tactically and technically is just one piece of the puzzle since players need someone to look up to, to aspire to be.  As a youth moving up the ranks, Sarver was inspired by American greats like Michele Akers and April Heinrichs.

“Those two were my role models and were instrumental in fostering my love for the game.  Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe are good, strong personalities that are quality role models that kids today can to look up to.  They actually play with a lot of flair, which is exciting for young players to see.”

The women’s national team is a powerhouse in the here and now, but many pundits are worried about the future.  One area of concern is the lack of an academy run and funded by USSF.  But Sarver thinks there is something effective already in place.

She believes the ECNL is a solid alternative to creating a separate developmental academy for girls and women like U.S. Soccer has done for the other gender.  The ECNL shares the same focus: quality training and professional environments over quantity of games.  These happen to be the same values exhibited by Claudio Reyna’s coaching curriculum and the USSFDA system.

One thing is for certain, Sarver is a great coach and a great advocate for the women’s game.  With her help, the beautiful game here in NE Ohio and across the country will reach unprecedented heights.

Simply put, the game is in good hands with people like Keri Sarver.

Korrio understands it is your passion for coaching kids that drives you. We also know that the less time you spend dealing with administrative, communication and automation hassles, and the more time you spend on the field, the happier you’ll be. And because you play a crucial role in our children’s lives, we want you spending as much time as possible coaching our kids. Korrio offers a modern approach to coaching by allowing new ways to communicate and develop a community on and off the field. Congratulations to the ISN Star of Coaching this month.

Akron Men’s Soccer Announces Spring Exhibition Schedule

Four matches against NCAA Tournament qualifiers, including home games versus Kentucky and Xavier, highlight the 2013 University of Akron men’s soccer spring exhibition schedule, as announced by head coach Jared Embick Wednesday.

The Zips will first take the field on March 8, when they travel to Horizon League champion Cleveland State for a 7:30 p.m. kick off. The Vikings advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980 last fall and were defeated by Michigan State in the first round.

Akron will then have nearly a month off before facing two more postseason qualifiers when Kentucky and Xavier make the trip to FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field on April 6th and 14th, respectively. Coincidentally, the Wildcats and Musketeers last faced off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with XU advancing by way of a 1-0 result before falling to eventual national champion Indiana.

UA will kick off against Kentucky at 5 p.m. and Xavier at 4 p.m. Both matches are open to the public and free of charge.

A trip to Butler on April 21 precedes a much-anticipated match-up at NCAA College Cup qualifier Maryland in College Park on April 27. The Terrapins captured the regular-season and tournament titles in the ACC before falling in penalty kicks to Georgetown in the NCAA semifinals. Game times are scheduled for 3 p.m. at Butler and 2:30 p.m. at Maryland.

The Zips, who swept the Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament titles for the fifth time in six years in 2012, claimed the nation’s No. 1-ranking in the final poll of the regular season and advanced to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year.

UA will return nine letterwinners and five starters this fall, including leading goal scorer Reinaldo Brenes and center back Bryan Gallego. It will mark the first season at the helm for Embick, who served the previous six years as an assistant on the Zips’ staff.

2013 Spring Schedule
Fri., March 8, at Cleveland State, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., April 6, vs. Kentucky, 5 p.m.
Sun., April 14, vs. Xavier, 4 p.m.
Sun., April 21, at Butler, 3 p.m.
Sat., April 27, at Maryland, 2:30 p.m.

Women’s Soccer Alumni in Germany

Two former members of the University of Akron women’s soccer program have found success in their post-collegiate careers in the professional ranks, as they begin their first year in professional soccer in Germany.

Jordan Clark and Kara Cooper were teammates on the Zips soccer team in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Clark joined the Akron roster as a freshman in 2007, while Cooper transferred into Akron in 2010. Clark and Cooper were able to be teammates in 2010 and 2011 due to a knee injury sustained by Clark, which forced her to redshirt her 2008 season.

“Each of these fine young women came into the program under Coach Pfau as aspiring young recruits hoping to make an impact on a Division I program.  They grew and developed tremendously over their four years under his tutelage which helped prepare them for this opportunity at the next level,” Head Coach Vernon Croft said.

Croft continued, “I was fortunate enough to spend more time with Jordan over the past year to help develop her tactical thinking from the standpoint of a coach and to talk about some of the transitions mentally from one level to the next.”

A mark on the Akron women’s soccer record book was left when Clark finished her career as a Zip. She holds the record for most career match appearances with 76, while starting in 67 of those appearances. Clark also ranks in the top-10 in UA women’s soccer history in career goals, assists, and points.

In 2011, Clark was named a second team All-Mid American Conference (MAC) selection, as she led the team with four assists. She also earned Academic All-MAC honors in the 2011 season.

“I’ve made so many great memories through my years at Akron including breaking conference records for our program and competing against some of the bigger names in the country,” Clark said reflecting on her time at UA. “However, I would have to say that my most memorable moment as a Zip was probably defeating The University of Michigan on their home field to start off the season.”

Cooper transferred to Akron from Youngstown State University, where she played her sophomore and junior seasons. In 2010, Cooper started 12 matches and appeared in 15 overall matches. She was depended upon a lot on defense, as she stayed on the pitch for the entirety of eight matches that season.

The 2011 season was just as fruitful for Cooper. She started 14 matches, and appeared in 18 matches overall. She registered her first career goal with the Zips with her lone shot of the season against Ball State on Oct. 7, 2011.

“Akron taught me and gave me the tools to succeed both on and off the field … it’s part of the reason why I am where I am today,” Cooper said when asked about her time at the University of Akron.

Cooper also echoed Clark’s sentiment towards the victory over the University of Michigan in 2011. When asked about her favorite moment as a Zip, Cooper said, “Beating Michigan my senior year; it was such a great game.”

Karlsruhe Sport Club in Karlsruher, Germany is now the home to the former Zips. Clark and Cooper have only been in Germany for a few weeks at this point, and they are enjoying every minute of her experience. The only issue they have come across thus far is the language barrier, which they are trying to learn. However, the pair says, “Many of our teammates are interested in improving their English, so it actually works out that they teach us some German and we help them with their English. We have a good time with it.”

The biggest difference Clark and Cooper have noticed from their transition to the professional lever is the speed and style of play that is utilized on the field. They also mentioned the transition from being a student-athlete to full-time athlete. Clark says she had to change her mindset from college, and put all her focus into the sport. Cooper is enjoying being away from the stress that comes from college courses, and solely focusing on becoming a better soccer player.

“Jordan and Kara have both been very passionate about putting themselves in a p osition to play at the pro level from the moment their careers finished at Akron.  This mentality has somewhat prepared them for the next level, but also the training environments they have been in during their time at Akron have prepared them to not only transition from the college game to the pro level, but to find immediate success with their new club.  The new experience coupled with their talents and past experiences will certainly allow them to make a mark in the league,” said Croft.

Clark credited Head Coach Vernon Croft and Assistant Coach Keri Sarver with her development as a player and a person. She is also thankful for her former coach Chris Pfau, and the entire support staff within the University of Akron athletics department. According to Clark, her family has been her biggest support system. She said, “Without the support from my amazing mother, grandparents, sister and fiancee I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.”

Head Coach Croft and Assistant Coach Sarver helped Clark develop an expansive mental strength. She says about her mental strength, “This has allowed me to grow as a person as well as improve my game as a player.”

Cooper also credited the coaching staff with her development as a player. She says, “The coaching staff helped develop me into a versatile player. Because of that I am able to play an array of positions, which makes me more marketable as a player.  [Former Head Coach] Chris Pfau took a striker and made a defender out of me.”

When asked if there was anyone she credited for her success, she said, “…the journey that I am on is nothing short of a miracle with two knee surgeries and transferring colleges. I have had so much support from my family and friends that it would be too hard to name everyone. I am so grateful for where I am today. So blessed, it brings tears to my eyes.”

The two teammates are extremely excited to begin their professional careers. They have already had several games along with a tournament. Clark performed exceptionally in the tournament, as she was named MVP of the tournament.

Jordan Clark and Kara Cooper are passionate about their craft on the playing field, and are working hard to improve their own play, while also improving the overall team performance for Karlsruhe SC. Their success on the professional level brings great pride to both the University of Akron women’s soccer program and the Akron athletics department as a whole.

Karlsruhe SC is a member of the Bundesliga in German professional soccer. The club is located Karlsruher, Germany, which is located in southwest Germany near the French border with a population of over 297,000 people.

Serna Gets the Call

U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos completed the team’s 20-player roster with the addition of midfielder Dillon Serna as the group prepares for the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship that starts on Feb. 18 in Puebla, Mexico.

The Brighton, Colo., native was signed by Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids as a homegrown player after being part of the club’s U-15/16 and U-17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. Serna played in three matches with the U-20 MNT in 2012. He spent the 2012 collegiate season with Caleb Porter at the University of Akron.

Ramos announced an initial 18-player roster on Feb. 7 and the team named forward Jerome Kiesewetter to the roster on Feb. 11. The team is training in Toluca, Mexico, but will travel to Puebla this week.

The U.S. U-20 MNT is looking to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey from June 21-July 13.

The U-20s open the CONCACAF U-20 Championship group stage against Haiti on Feb. 18 and Costa Rica on Feb. 22 at Estadio Olímpico Universitario Lobos BUAP in Puebla, Mexico. Both Group A matches kick off at 5:30 p.m. CT and are televised on FOX Soccer. U-20 MNT fans can also follow the action through’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.

The top four teams from the CONCACAF U-20 Championship advance to the U-20 World Cup.

U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team Roster by Position:

GOALKEEPERS (3) : Cody Cropper (Southampton FC; Maple Grove, Minn.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Zackary Steffen (FC DELCO Academy; Downington, Pa.)

DEFENDERS (5) : Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (C.D. Guadalajara; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), Javan Torre (UCLA; Santa Monica, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (6) : Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (Sporting Kansas City; Mission, Texas), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.), Caleb Stanko (SC Freiburg; Holly, Mich.), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio)

FORWARDS (6) : Brandon Allen (Georgetown; Old Bridge, N.J.), Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Daniel Garcia (North Carolina; Dallas, Texas), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart; Berlin, Germany), Mario Rodriguez (1. FC Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.), Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy; Inglewood, Calif.)