2013 NCAA College Cup Second Round Preview: #9 Marquette vs Akron

Center back Axel Sjoberg and Marquette's defense may be tested by Akron's prolific offense on Sunday evening. - Maggie Bean/MarquetteImages.com

The Big East champions get their NCAA tournament experience started on Sunday evening when the MAC champions come to Valley Fields!

When: Sunday, November 24, at 5pm
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: If you can't make it down to Valley Fields, you can check out the FREE VIDEO STREAMING to watch the match. If you're not the visual type, you can listen in to Marquette Radio's streaming broadcast of the match. Live stats will be here.
Special Promotions: The first 200 students get in FOR FREE! The first 100 students will get a free winter hat on top of that, too!
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer

After a bit of a shaky 4-3-1 non-conference slate, partially brought on by Big East Midfielder of the Year Bryan Ciesiulka missing time after being diagnosed with a concussion after the season opening loss to UW-Milwaukee, Marquette responded in Big East play. They finished 6-2-1 against their conference foes and shared the regular season title with Georgetown, and courtesy of two game winning goals from redshirt senior Adam Lysak at PPL Park, Marquette went on to win the Big East tournament. With that trophy in hand, Marquette was awarded the national #9 seed in the 2013 College Cup and a bye to the second round.

Redshirt sophomore and All-Big East First Teamer C. Nortey is Marquette's most dangerous offensive weapon. The Ghanaian striker has nine goals on the season, and five of his goals were game winners. Senior defender Paul Dillon is the team leader in assists with six, but there are three more Golden Eagles - freshmen Louis Bennett II and Coco Navarro along with junior Kelmend Islami - who have assisted on five goals this season. Redshirt junior keeper Charlie Lyon posted a goals-against average of 0.87 this season while stopping 80.7% of the shots on goal, and he was named Big East Co-Goalkeeper of the Year for his efforts guiding Marquette to the Big East regular season title.

While this is Marquette's third NCAA tournament appearance in program history and second straight appearance, Akron is an old hand at this national championship thing. The Zips won the 2010 College Cup after finishing as runner up in 2009. This is their seventh straight appearance in the tournament, and 28th overall. Akron has reached the Sweet 16 round of the College Cup each of the last five season.

This season, Akron finished the regular season with a record of 14-3-1. Their only stumbles came in a loss at St. John's in double overtime, and then three times at home: shutout losses to VCU and Hartwick and a scoreless draw with Michigan State. After locking up the Mid-American Conference regular season championship in the season finale, the Zips hosted the MAC tournament and won the tournament title with a 3-0 win over West Virginia and a 4-1 over Western Michigan in the championship game. Even with their #7 ranking in the NSCAA coaches' poll, Akron had to start the College Cup unseeded and after starting with a 3-0 lead, they held off defending national champion Indiana by a final of 3-2 to advance to Sunday's contest with Marquette.

Nine men from Akron were named to the 2013 All-MAC First Team. Nine. Out of 12. Senior Aodhan Quinn was named MAC Player of the Year, even though he's only second on the team in goals and only had 4 in the regular season. They were four pretty important goals, though. First, the game winner in the season opener against Charleston, then a penalty kick game winner against #15 Wake Forest. Quinn followed all of that up with both of Akron's goals in a 2-1 double overtime win against #11 Penn State just 2 weeks ago. He got the equalizer in the 83rd minute and then bent in this free kick for the golden goal in the 106th minute.

After just four goals in the regular season, Quinn now has a goal in each of Akron's three postseason matches. Six different Zips have scored at least three goals this season, including team leader Reinaldo Brenes, who has eight. Three different players have at least five assists, including nine alone from freshman midfielder Adam Najem. Freshman keeper Fernando Pina has taken up the mantle in net for the Zips. He earned a spot on the all-MAC First Team with a 0.62 goals-against average and a .782 save percentage.

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