If there was any doubt, the University of Akron men’s soccer team showed Tuesday night that the grit and swagger that was so visible in recent years still remains.
The No. 23 Zips hosted No. 15 Wake Forest in a hotly contested nonleague match that featured just one goal at FirstEnergy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field.
Fortunately for UA, Zips senior midfielder Aodhan Quinn scored the goal in the 37th minute when he converted a penalty kick that proved to be the difference and send a crowd of 2,410 home happy.
The victory for the Zips (9-3-0) is their first against a top 25 opponent this season. The Demon Deacons drop to 6-3-4.
“I think mentally and physically we are at a real high because we got woken up by Hartwick, but I think we needed that,” Quinn said. “It was a good wake-up call. From now on, I think everyone has been focused on training and training has been much better. It shows in the game. The last two games we have been a lot better.”
Quinn was referencing a 2-0 loss to Hartwick at home on Oct. 5, and then wins at Cleveland State (2-0 on Oct. 9) and Tuesday.
UA applied consistent pressure on Wake Forest in the first half and held a 5-1 advantage in shots on goal. Wake Forest freshman goalkeeper Alec Ferrell made four saves.
UA sophomore reserve forward Matt Foldesy drew the foul in the box on Wake Forest freshman Jacori Hayes to set up Quinn’s scoring chance.
“Foldesy had a great individual effort and the kid just brought him down,” Quinn said. “I just converted the easy PK.”
When asked his strategy on penalty kicks, Quinn said: “You just have to be 100 percent confident that you will score. That is all I think about, putting the ball into the net.”
UA held an edge in shots (12-9) and corner kicks (7-2). Each team had five shots on goal.
“It was really a game of two halves,” UA coach Jared Embick said. “First half, I thought we were excellent and in the second half they pressed us, and we turned the ball over and we couldn’t really get much going in the second half. We were able to hold on. That was a good opponent though. You are going to have those moments. Our guys showed a lot of fight and how much they wanted to win the game.”
The victory was UA’s sixth in its past seven matches.
“For me it was enjoyable to finally play a team that wants to play soccer and wants to go out and challenge you to win,” Embick said. “They wanted to challenge you for the ball and not just sit in front of the goal and hope we don’t score and hope that in the few chances they may get that they do score.”
Zips senior Reinaldo Brenes, junior Bryan Gallego and senior Robbie Derschang each left the match due to an injury. Gallego was the only one to return to action.
Embick started Brenes, junior Saad Abdul-Salaam and senior Eric Stevenson at forward. Quinn started at midfield with freshmen Adam Najem and Victor Souto.
Freshman goalkeeper Fernando Pina made five saves. Derschang joined sophomore Andrew Souders and freshman Louis Cross in the back as starting defenders.
“We knew that after the goal we were going to have to keep organizing because they were going to come hard in the second half,” Pina said. “There was a lot of organization to the back four and to the midfield. I had to do my job and make saves.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.