A challenge arose for the University of Akron men's soccer team Wednesday night.
The top-ranked Zips were able to respond to Michigan State's challenge and come away with a 2-1 victory at Lee Jackson Field.
Junior Blair Gavin scored a goal off of a penalty kick with 15:24 remaining in the game to break a 1-1 tie and help the Zips keep their perfect season going.
The Zips (17-0-0) are the No. 1 team in the country in all five national polls.
''We knew it was going to be intense and in all honesty it was a game that we needed,'' UA coach Caleb Porter said. ''We have not faced many opponents that have tested us, especially when we are defending.
''We haven't been through much adversity and I think you can tell a lot about a championship-level team in the moments of adversity.''
Sophomore Teal Bunbury gave the Zips a 1-0 lead with a goal 3:18 into the first half from about 20-yards away on the right side. Sophomore Darlington Nagbe earned an assist by kicking the ball ahead about 20 yards. Bunbury, who has a team-high 15 goals in 17 games, gathered the pass and kicked the ball over Spartans sophomore goalkeeper Jeremy Clark and into the net.
Michigan State senior Tim Granaderos tied the score at 1-1 with a goal with 6:13 remaining in the first half. Sophomore Rubin Bega got the assist with a crossing pass from the left side of the box. Granaderos secured the pass and kicked the ball into the net from about 8 yards away past Zips freshman goalkeeper David Meves.
That Spartans goal was the first the Zips have allowed at home this season.
''I thought in the first half after we scored the goal, for whatever reason we went on cruise control,'' Porter said. ''There have been several games this year where that has happened and an opponent hasn't been able to really punish us.''
The Spartans (10-5-2) thought they had a 2-1 lead with 27:36 left in the game, but junior Jake Fullerton was whistled for offside as he kicked the ball past Meves and into the net.
The penalty kick came after Zips freshman Ben Speas and Spartans junior Nosa Iyoha got tangled up on the right side of the box and both fell to the grass. A foul was called on Iyoha and Gavin followed with a shot that hit the crossbar and dropped into the right side of the net for a goal.
''Speas is special because he can get at people and get around people,'' said Gavin, who is 4-for-4 on penalty kicks. ''He got around that guy and that guy had to clip him, that was his last play. The team trusted me to take the PK. My heart sunk a little bit when the ball hit the crossbar, but once it hit that net I was happy.''
The Zips held an advantage in shots (16-6), shots on goal (8-2) and corner kicks (3-1).
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