After exploring his options in the professional ranks, 2015 second-team All-America Adam Najem has elected to return to the University of Akron for his senior season with the men’s soccer team.
Najem helped lead UA to an 18-3-3 record and the program’s fourth College Cup appearance in December. At Sporting Park in Kansas City, the Zips battled eventual national champion Stanford to a 0-0 double-overtime draw in the NCAA semifinals before being eliminated 8-7 on penalty kicks in a 10-round shootout.
Afterward, Najem did not sign with an agent as he debated turning pro.
“Returning to Akron for my senior year is truly exciting,” Najem said in a statement. “Coming so close to bringing back a national championship to Akron, but unfortunately losing in penalties in the College Cup left an empty feeling in all our hearts. This university, these coaches, and this team have done so much for me and having the opportunity to make one more run, one more chance to bring the title back to where it belongs would be truly a storybook ending.”
Last season Najem started all 24 games and led UA in assists (11), points (31), shots (69), shots on goal (31) and game-winners (4), while ranking second in goals (10). He also became the sixth Zip to be named a first-team NSCAA Scholar All-America.
“We are thrilled Adam has decided to come back for his senior year,” UA coach Jared Embick said in a statement. “He is important to this team on and off the field. On the field, our play goes through him. He is the playmaker and he controls the rhythm of the game for our attack. Off the field, he is a tremendous student-athlete and is a leader. He is one of our two captains and does a great job pushing this group to reach its potential.”
Najem will head a UA team that boasts the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.
After an Aug. 19 home exhibition against Michigan, UA opens the season on Aug. 26 against Georgetown at FirstEnergy Stadium in the Akron Classic.
“These past three years we’ve had very demanding schedules and it is very exciting to see another tough schedule this year,” Najem said. “Individually and collectively, our expectations will remain the same as they do every year — to play the best style of soccer in the country while winning a national championship.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.