In the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament, the Akron Zips (16-3-2) crushed Rutgers (12-7-2) 6-1 at First Energy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field in Akron. They will next move onto the third round with a home match next weekend.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Rubber City, temperatures held near freezing, but the Zips continued their hot streak, as they were aided by early first half goals from junior Victor Souto (penalty) and a pair of goals each from sophomores Richie Laryea and Stuart Holthusen.
Second half goal came from Sean Sepe and it was the first time Akron scored six in a game since a 6-0 rout of Bowling Green in 2009. With 9:52 remaining in the match, Rutgers got their solo goal on the night from Sugor Al Awwad.
With the win, it will be the first time that the Zips will get to the third round of the NCAA Tournament in three seasons.
“We’re obviously pleased with the performance,” Akron Zips third year head coach Jared Embick said of the match. “We tried to get to get on top of them with a fast start, guys came out and we got after them, and we were rewarded with a couple of goals. We trained well this week, we thought we could isolated their backs, we were able to and were able to put some balls away.”
Early, Sam Gainford was injured and was substituted for senior Sean Sepe, who was the unlikely spark that got the Zips rolling.
“Sean was starting at the beginning of the year, in my eyes, he’s a very good player, and we didn’t hesitate to use him when we needed him,” Embick added. “Sean has worked hard and hopefully that gives him the confidence to get going.”
Sepe got the ball right after he came into the match, ran down the field, was fouled in the box, which he used his speed to get around the defender, but the defender tripped him up and gave Akron the early pk. Victor Souto took the penalty, and took a right-footed shot into the bottom left hand corner, as Rutgers goalie David Greczek dove to his left in the wrong direction. Akron was up 1-0 within the first five minutes of the match (40:04).
“I saw the guy stepping in hard and he took me out, and 1-0 Akron,“ Sepe added.
It also added to Souto’s 5 for 5 for penalties on the season.
Rutgers could not stop the Akron attack, as the Zips quickly put goals into the back of the net in a matter of minutes.
First, Sean Sepe again put his mark on the match, as he created an excellent cross from the left corner. His pass lingered just enough for Holthusen to head away the goal in front of the Rutgers net. Sepe was given a great pass from Laryea, which separated the defenders. Akron were up 2-0 quickly with 32:32 left in the half.
“We worked for it tonight,” goal scorer Laryea said. “We didn’t give them anything and we took every opportunity we were given, so I think the score line does us justice.”
Next, the Zips put their third across, as a magical piece of play from Layrea gave Akron the commanding lead. Laryea was fed the ball in the box, possessed it, twisted and turned his defended around to get his defender off balance, finally but the ball on his right foot and put away a beautiful shot into the top right hand corner after making the space he needed. Laryea now leads the Zips with 11 goals on the year with his pair in the match. The Zips looked they would be able to cruise, as they had a 3-0 lead with 32:15 left in the half.
The Zips have now won four straight, and the six goals in the most they have scored in a game this season.
“I didn’t realize how fast Sepe was,” Rutgers head coach Don Dongian said of the Zips attacker. “The guys in the middle of the park were just exceptional, you just have to make sure you are firing on all facets, you can’t sit back on Akron, because they will eventually break you down and pick you apart.”
Again the Zips were pushing to further their lead, and Holthusen got his second of the half, as Adam Najem shred the Rutgers back line with an excellent through ball, right to the stride of Holthusen, who beat Greczek one-on-one. Houlthusen added to his tally, collecting goals and 8 and 9 in the 2015 season and Najem added to his team leading 9 assists in 2015. Again, Akron had distanced themselves with Rutgers, leading 4-0 early (28:51).
The final Akron goal in the first 18 minutes again came from Laryea, who finessed his second of the afternoon after the Zips won a deep free kick. The ball ended up and Layera’s feet and placed it perfectly into the net. Akron led an unthinkable 5-0 with 27:22 left in the first half, which would be the score heading into the lockers at the half.
“This massively helps us out,” Holthusen said of the night. “We have to take this confidence into the next game and really try to recreate what we did tonight.”
Akron lead Rutgers in all offensive stats, outshooting them 14-6 (8-1 shots on goal) and held a 5-1 advantage in corners.
Sean Sepe scored the sixth of the night, on a long pass from Laryea. Sepe had some fancy footwork to dispel Greczek and get his first of the night. 6-0 Akron with half an hour to go.
“That’s a hell of a soccer team we played,” Rutgers head coach Don Dongian said of their opponent. “They are an exceptional team and they play great football. Just incredible movement off the ball, very technical, athletic, and have good size at every position.”
Rutgers was coming off a penalty shootout with LIU Brooklyn at home, 3-2, with regular time ending 1-1 on Thursday, November 19 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. Akron was coming of the first round bye, last playing the Buffalo Bulls in MAC Championship match, winning 1-0 on November 15. It was the second time the Zips and Scarlet Knights met in the NCAA Tournament, with Akron taking the 3-2 decision in the second round in 2003.
“Our fans bring the best out us every game,” Sepe added. “And every game we win we get more believers.”
Akron will face SMU in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on November 29th.