The University of Akron men’s soccer team built a large lead Sunday night, and then withstood a rally attempt by feisty Southern Methodist University.
Sophomore forward Darren Mattocks scored two goals and senior forward Luke Holmes added one goal to lead the unseeded Zips to a 3-2 victory against the sixth-seeded Mustangs in a second round match of the NCAA Tournament on Westcott Field in Dallas, Tex.
"Those two guys are big time," Zips coach Caleb Porter said by telephone after the victory. "They really stepped up. Obviously, Darren has been producing all year long. He is a critical component to our team."
The Zips (15-3-4) had a 3-0 lead with 24 minutes and 17 seconds remaining in the match, but the Mustangs (13-7-1) cut into the deficit with two goals in the 83rd minute.
UA maintained the lead for the final seven minutes to continue its quest to defend the national championship it won last season.
UA plays Charlotte in a third round match Sunday at a time and site to be determined. Charlotte beat No. 11 seed and host Alabama Birmingham 3-1 Sunday.
Porter upped his coaching record to 10-3-2 in the NCAA Tournament.
Mattocks scored his first goal Sunday in the 22nd minute with a header from a few yards out to give the Zips a 1-0 lead. Sophomore forward Aodhan Quinn and freshman defender DeAndre Yedlin assisted on the goal.
Holmes extended the Zips advantage to 2-0 with his goal in the 63rd minute off a free kick from about 28 yards out.
"Luke’s free kick was pretty special," Porter said. "He has emerged as our second scoring option. He is very dangerous and very confident right now."
UA’s edge went to 3-0 in the 76th minute when Mattocks kicked in his second goal from a few yards out.
Mattocks has 21 goals in 21 matches this season.
"It is just win and move on," Mattocks said by telephone. "That is what it is all about. We know we can beat anyone in the country, so it wasn’t a big deal to play on the road."
SMU countered with two goals in the 83rd minute from midfielders Tyler Engel and Arthur Ivo. Engel’s goal came from about four yards out and Ivo scored off a penalty kick.
"The game reminded me a lot of the game last year against West Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament," Porter said. "A game can turn in a minute, and in some ways it is good for us to experience that. It can keep us grounded and on edge."
The Zips also won that match against the Mountaineers by a 3-2 score.
"We were a bit unlucky on both goals [Sunday] in my opinion," Porter said. "I am proud of the guys. They weathered the storm and they responded to get the win. We really dug deep and buckled down. That gives us a lot of confidence."
UA held an advantage in shots (18-16) and shots on goal (11-5).
Zips junior goalkeeper David Meves made three saves. Seniors Michael Balogun and Matt Dagilis started as defenders with Yedlin and junior Chad Barson. The quartet played the entire 90 minutes together.
Freshmen Wil Trapp and Bryan Gallego contributed as starting midfielders for UA with junior Scott Caldwell.