A shot on goal was hard to come by Friday night. A goal, at times seemed, impossible.
Then in the 101st minute, sophomore forward Darlington Nagbe scored with 9:13 remaining in the second overtime to lead the University of Akron soccer team to a 1-0 win over Northern Illinois before 1,694 fans in a semifinal game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Lee Jackson Field.
UA (19-0-0) will play Hartwick in the MAC Tournament championship game on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Zips are ranked No. 1 in the country in all five national polls.
Zips sophomore midfielder Michael Nanchoff redirected a crossing pass from sophomore froward Teal Bunbury to Nagbe for the game-winner.
Bunbury started the play from the left side, and Nagbe finished it from about eight yards away.
Nagbe then whipped off his jersey and sprinted behind the goal and then back onto the field to celebrate with his teammates.
Nagbe embraced Bunbury with a hug near midfield and shedded some tears.
The 19 wins are a school record and represent the fifth-longest winning streak in a single season in NCAA history.
Zips junior midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong was taken off the field with a leg injury with 21:46 remaining in the second half. Ampaipitakwong and Huskies (10-8-1) freshman goalkeeper Jordan Godsey collided outside the goalie box after an offside was called. Both players were going for the ball, and Ampaipitakwong went down.
The tackle triggered some pushing and shoving between each team and Godsey was given a yellow card.
Nanchoff nearly scored a goal with 18:45 left in the second half when he kicked a shot from about 30 yards away off the crossbar.
Godsey made a tremendous diving save with 5:55 to go when he batted away a Bunbury shot from about 25 yards out.
The Zips held an advantage in shots (13-3), shots on goal (3-0) and corner kicks (8-2).
UA shut out its 14th opponent of the season, and freshman goalkeeper David Meves earned his 12th shutout. Sophomore Kofi Sarkodie, junior Chris Korb and freshmen Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson were the Zips' starting defenders.
Neither team had a shot on goal in the first half.
Hartwick overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Western Michigan 3-2 in the other MAC semifinal Friday.
“It was a combination of three special players that linked up, with the end result being a great run by Darlington and a great service by Michael to win the game.”
“It was a fantastic run and finish by, in my opinion one of the best players in college soccer, in Darlington Nagbe. He doesn't always get the credit because he is an unselfish player, but if you know soccer and you watch our team and see the things he does in possession, its magic at times. I thought it was fitting that he scored the goal at the end because he is so important to our team in the attack.”
“I was very relaxed going into the last overtime because I had no doubt in my mind we would win the game and I looked at them and they felt the same way.”
“Teal played Mikey, and I made eye contact with Mikey. He played the ball too and the goalie came up. I had to get it in. I chipped it over him.”
“Teal Bunbury is my big bro. I told him I love him. We are both up top together and we take a beating together every single game.”
“We knew it was going to be a physical game; its a rivalry game, we had to mentally prepare for it.”
UA received all three MAC specialty awards. Bunbury won the Player of the Year, Valentin was tabbed as Newcomer of the Year and Porter was selected as Coach of the Year.
Porter has won three consecutive Coach of the Year honors.
Zips on the All-MAC first team are forwards Bunbury and Nagbe; midfielders Nanchoff, Ampaipitakwong, junior Blair Gavin; and defenders Valentin, Sarkodie and Korb.
Zips senior midfielder Ben Zemanski and goalkeeper Meves made the All-MAC second team.
- Bunbury is third in the nation with 15 goals in 18 games this season. He is the seventh UA player to earn the MAC player of the Year since 1993. He follows Steve Zakuani (2008), Corey Sipos (2007), Sinisa Ubiparipovic (2006) and Ross McKenzie (2005) as the fifth consecutive UA player to be honored as the MAC Player of the Year.
- Valentin becomes the eighth UA player to earn newcomer honors and the fourth in the last five seasons, following Nagbe (2008), Zakuani (2007) and Evan Bush (2005).
- Valentin started all 18 games for a defensive unit that allowed six goals during the regular season. UA's goals-against-average of 0.33 entering play Friday is tied with Monmouth for the best mark in the nation and is threatening to erase the current program standard of 0.45, set in 2008.
- Porter became UA coach in 2006 and has compiled an overall record of 64-11-7 (.823) in 82 games, including four MAC regular-season titles, back-to-back MAC Tournament titles and two trips to the NCAA Tournament, culminating with a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008.