Snow flurries and cold temperatures sound like a perfect pair to give the University of Akron an advantage today in its home soccer match against the University of California.
Zips leading scorer Darren Mattocks isn't so sure.
Mattocks, a Portmore, Jamaica, native, saw snow for the first time in his life this week.
What's he think of the weather?
''Not good,'' the soft-spoken Mattocks said.
His play is the exact opposite, though, as Mattocks, a freshman forward, leads third-seeded UA (20-1-1) into an NCAA Tournament quarterfinal match with sixth-seeded California (14-2-3) at 4 p.m. at Lee Jackson Soccer Field.
Mattocks has 18 goals and four assists for the Zips, who are one win shy of qualifying for the College Cup, an event next weekend in Santa Barbara, Calif., that will feature two national semifinals and the national final in warm temperatures.
''I can't complain,'' Mattocks said. ''I just have got one more home game before Santa Barbara. The weather in Santa Barbara is OK.''
Mattocks came to UA after scoring 23 goals in 17 matches as a senior at Bridgeport High School in Jamaica. His 18 goals this year are significantly more than the six goals former Zips standouts Steve Zakuani and Teal Bunbury each produced during their freshman years. In fact, Mattocks has netted six goals in his past four games.
''Most important I have to put God first; without God things are not possible,'' Mattocks said. ''I have been working extremely hard in training, and I have seen the results in the past four games. I have to continue to work out, continue to stay focused and continue to stay sharp. Hopefully, I have a couple more goals in me from here on out.''
''The first year is tough,'' UA coach Caleb Porter said. ''There are a lot of adjustments to make. We knew Darren would have a learning curve coming from Jamaica to the U.S. and having to learn a new country and a new culture. He also had to learn to fit into this team and learn how to defend better. We knew that we had a talented player and cer
tainly we knew he was capable of causing a lot of problems in college soccer.
''I saw Darren for five minutes, and I knew this is a guy we could use as a striker. We have [junior forward] Darlington Nagbe and he brings a lot to the team with his abilities. We knew we needed a guy that was more of a true striker, like a Teal Bunbury and a Steve Zakuani.
''I think we hit the jackpot.''
Zakuani and Bunbury each upped their goal totals as sophomores, scoring 20 goals and 17 goals, respectively, and both play in Major League Soccer. A pro career seems to be in Mattocks' future at some point.
''To score 18 goals so far in college, I can't complain, but that is not my target,'' Mattocks said. ''My target is to win a national championship and bring it to Akron.''
Zips junior midfielder Michael Nanchoff said the first scouting report he heard from Porter on Mattocks was positive.
''I remember when Coach first described him, he said he was electric,'' Nanchoff said. ''He is fast as can be. I remember the first captains practice we had, he was very explosive. His acceleration was incredible. You could just tell he had a knack for scoring goals.''
Sizing up Cal
All 18 players, who have logged minutes for the Golden Bears this season, are California natives.
''The cold will be a slight advantage for us, but we will not look into it too much,'' said Nanchoff, a Walsh Jesuit High School graduate. ''Our main focus is on what we have to do. It is kind of humorous that a Cal team has to come out here and leave the warm weather.
''The cold doesn't bother me at all. I remember my first game when I was 3 years old was actually in the snow. I was playing munchkin soccer. I have lived here my whole life, so I am pretty acclimated.''
Senior Davis Paul (eight goals, 14 assists), senior Servando Carrasco (seven goals), sophomore John Fitzpatrick (six goals) and senior A.J. Soars (five goals) are some of Cal's top players in front of junior goalkeeper David Bingham (122 saves).
''They are well coached by Kevin Grimes,'' Porter said. ''They are organized and have only given up 14 goals. From what we hear, they have one of the top goalkeepers in the country. They have given up a lot of shots, but he has made a lot of saves. They have been in 11 overtime games, so they have been tested.''
The Zips counter with Nanchoff (nine goals, eight assists), Nagbe (seven goals, 11 assists), junior Kofi Sarkodie (seven goals, six assists) and senior Anthony Ampaipitakwong (three goals, 10 assists).