Broncos Take Down Defending National Champs in PKs, Advance in MAC Tournament
AKRON, Ohio- The Western Michigan men’s soccer team advanced past the defending national champion and No. 1 seed Akron in the MAC Tournament Semifinals Friday. The match was decided in penalty kicks, after the two teams played to a 1-1 tie. WMU converted all of its first four kicks and sophomore Sean Lewis came up with a monster save on Akron’s third try. Needing to make good on Akron’s fifth and final attempt, MAC Player of the Year Darren Mattocks sailed his shot over the crossbar. Owning a 4-3 advantage, WMU did not have to even take its fifth attempt.
The rematch of last year’s MAC championship game did not disappoint, as Western Michigan withstood 10 Akron shots in the first half. The nationally No. 7 ranked Zips broke the scoreless tie in the 64th minute when Matt Dagilis finished a header off a cross. WMU senior Doug Raak evened the score with six minutes remaining in regulation, heading in his first goal of the season. Darren Jones served a free kick 35 yards out and Raak knocked it home from eight yards away.
No. 4 seed WMU was out-shot 6-3 in the two overtime periods, but again stood firm to force PKs. Both teams made good on their first two PKs, Oliver Mayer and Pat Schiffer putting away their shots away for the Broncos. Lewis dove to his right to bat away Scott Caldwell's waist high offering and Derek Schrauben blasted WMU’s third shot for a 3-2 lead. Aodhan Quinn kept Akron’s hopes alive tying the tallies at three in UA's fourth kick, but freshman Jason Grant buried WMU’s fourth try to put WMU back on top 4-3. Mattocks’ miss sealed the Zips fate, and the Broncos will go on to face the winner of the second semifinal match between No. 2 Northern Illinois and No. 3 Buffalo Sunday at 4 p.m.
“I am absolutely delighted for everyone connected with the program,” said Western Michigan head coach Stu Riddle. “The players were terrific tonight sticking to and implementing the game plan. We continue to show fantastic resilience to come from behind and win against a quality team like Akron, at their home field in such an important game shows tremendous character.”
“I told the players this is the best moment of my soccer career and they will remember this for the rest of their lives. It will be even sweeter if we can regroup and refocus and bring back the MAC title.”
This year's tournament host, the four-time defending conference postseason champion Zips had entered Friday’s contest 12-1-2 all-time at home in the MAC Tournament, where they were previously unbeaten in their last 14 contests. Western Michigan returns to the MAC Championship game for the fourth time in school history and the second-straight year under Riddle. The Broncos captured their lone tournament title in 2003.