That’s what the University of Akron men’s soccer team probably thought after knocking off top-seeded Wake Forest 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament to reach the Elite Eight for the third time in four seasons.
Who’s next up on the docket for the Zips?
Stanford, of course.
The Cardinal (12-3-5) are the three-time reigning national champions and will wait for the Zips (13-6-2) as they prepare for a 9 p.m. game Friday.
Last season and in 2015, Stanford had to go through UA to get there, knocking off the Zips 2-0 in the national semifinal in 2017 and beating the Zips in 2015 on penalty kicks.
“When you have two programs that do things consistently with an identity of play, you always seem to find each other in big rounds when you’re doing well,” Zips coach Jared Embick said. “It is three of four years. For us, it’s been two Final Fours and now the Elite Eight, it just speaks to both teams’ quality to be able to get to those rounds.”
After a scoreless tie, Stanford knocked off eighth-seeded St. Mary’s 4-2 in penalty kicks to advance.
Past history shows Stanford's dominance recently over UA, but the Zips won’t let the Cardinal get inside their collective heads.
They know a good chunk of the team from last season is gone. They also know they’re on a seven-match winning streak. Stanford has a 1-0 loss as recently as three games ago to Cal on Nov. 8.
“It’s two years in a row now,” UA forward Marcel Zajac said. “It just shows the quality of the two teams to make it this far in the tournament. Now, we have to go out and get our revenge.
“The two tournament losses are in the back of your head through the whole year. After it happened, even the guys that left here are all for us beating them. They still have that taste in their mouth from last year and three years ago. We just have to go out and play our game for 90 minutes.”
Playing their game has been incredible in the past month. UA is outscoring opponents 16-4 during its current streak and is getting contributions from everywhere.
Zajac (8 goals, 7 assists) has logged three game-winners during the streak and has registered a point in eight of the past nine games.
David Egbo (12, 5), Ezana Kahsay (4, 4), Morgan Hackworth (4, 4) and Diogo Pacheco (5, 2) have reaped the benefits of the high-pressure attack the Zips thrive upon.
It has UA feeling invincible, especially after going into Spry Stadium and knocking out the Demon Deacons, who were 13-1 before the Zips bounced them from the tournament.
“Right now, they’re just another team we know we can beat if we play Akron soccer,” Egbo said. “The guys aren’t looking at it as revenge. We want to prove a point that if we go out there and battle, we know what we can do.”
After shutting down a high-powered offense like Wake Forest, the Zips face a team that has outscored opponents 31-11 this season.
Zach Ryan (9 goals, 3 assists), Amir Bashti (7, 6) and Tanner Beason (7, 5) are the pistons that run the Cardinal and will draw the bulk of the attention from the Zips.
“How do we stop them?” Zips keeper Ben Lundt asked. “The key will be to keep doing what we’ve been doing the past couple weeks and months. I don’t think we have to change anything. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.
“It helps that we’ve seen this team, but there are a lot of new players. The style and the type of soccer they play is the same. We know what’s coming.”