The University of Akron men's soccer team is ranked No. 1 in the nation according to a preseason top-30 poll conducted by College Soccer News.
UA will face six opponents in the CSN top-20 this season with four ranked in the top-10. The Zips will face all but one of those opponents away. They host No. 5 Tulsa on Sept. 24.
According to College Soccer News: "The Zips impressed everyone last year. Expect more of the same in 2010. Don't fret about personnel losses. The backline of Kofi Sarkodie, Chris Korb, Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson is the best in the country. David Meves is stellar in goal. Forward Darlington Nagbe and midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong can run and gun with anyone."
The Zips will officially kick off their training schedule on Monday, Aug. 16. They return eight of 11 starters from a team that matched an NCAA single-season record with 23 consecutive victories a year ago and advanced to the national championship game for the second time in school history.
College Soccer News Preseason Top 30 Poll:
1. Akron, 2. North Carolina*, 3. Maryland, 4. Virginia, 5. Tulsa*, 6. UC Santa Barbara, 7. Wake Forest*, 8. UCLA, 9. Monmouth, 10. Ohio State*, 11. Boston College, 12. St. John's, 13. South Florida, 14. Stanford, 15. Duke, 16. Penn State*, 17. UNC Wilmington, 18. Northwestern, 19. Michigan State*, 20. UC Irvine, 21. Indiana, 22. Connecticut, 23. Portland, 24. Louisville, 25. Charlotte, 26. Bucknell, 27. Princeton, 28. Sacramento State, 29. Green Bay, 30. Evansville.
* indicates a 2010 UA regular-season opponent
Ampaipitakwong, Nagbe and Sarkodie honored
Ampaipitakwong, Nagbe and Sarkodie were named to the College Soccer News Preseason All-America Team.
UA's three representatives were the most by any school in the nation. Just four other schools – Maryland, North Carolina, Tulsa and Virginia – had more than one player honored. UA will travel to Chapel Hill on Sept. 3 to face the Tar Heels in the first game of the regular season before hosting Tulsa on Sept. 24 at Lee Jackson Field in a rematch of last year's NCAA quarterfinal game.
Ampaipitakwong, Nagbe and Sarkodie each achieved All-American status a year ago and may all be in the running for the Missouri Athletic Conference Hermann Trophy – considered the highest individual honor in collegiate soccer.
Ampaipitakwong (first team) and Nagbe (second team) were named to the NSCAA All-America Team in 2009 while Sarkodie was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team after posting a 4.0 cumulative GPA as a microbiology major.
Ampaipitakwong, a senior midfielder, was the catalyst of the nation's top-ranked attack a year ago and became just the 10th player in the history of the men's soccer program to earn NSCAA All-America honors in multiple years as a first-team selection in 2009 and a third-team honoree in 2008. The senior midfielder was also a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy a year ago after recording eight goals, including four game-winners, and five assists for the Zips.
Nagbe, a junior forward, was also dangerous in the final third in 2009 with 10 goals, including five game-winners, and three assists. He recorded the first hat trick of his career in one of Akron's most impressive wins of the regular season, a 5-1 route of Michigan in Ann Arbor last October, earning him a spot on national teams of the week from Soccer America, College Soccer News and Top Drawer Soccer.
Sarkodie, a junior defender, was a key component on one of the most dominating defensive units in NCAA history in 2009. He helped guide the Zips to 19 shutouts, which was the second-highest, single-season total in NCAA history. UA's goals-against-average of 0.27 and shutout percentage of .760 were the third-best, single-season marks in NCAA history.
Sarkodie also scored a pair of goals and had seven assists.