By Dane Arlauckas
The College of Charleston dropped their season opener to the eighth ranked Akron Zips in Matchday No. 1 of the Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic.
The Zips, who ended last year’s regular season as the top ranked team in the nation, stretch their season openers streak to seven years running after two second half goals to see off the hosting Cougars of The College.
It was the Cougars who hit Akron with a sucker punch just ten seconds into the match, when Freshman Adan Noel intercepted a pass, made a dash to goal and put the first shot of the game wide of Fernando Pina’s goal.
Charleston enjoyed a decent portion of the ball for the next ten minutes, but Akron was able to withstand the the pressure. With a young squad and an experienced coach, a tactical game was always in the cards for the home lads. Coach Ralph Lundy came in with a plan, and the plan was to defend. Lundy left it to his veteran back line to withstand the attack of a team that put up the 12th most goals in the country last year.
Akron found their stride around the tenth minute and peppered the goal of Dutch keeper Kees Hemmskerk. MF Eric Stevenson was in the mood tonight and seemed a threat with every touch in the attacking third. Stevenson connected with F Zac Portillo on a gorgeous diagonal ball over the top of the CofC defense. Portillo took it first touch, and took a chance that went just soaring over the crossbar.
The Cougars went to the to half time with their backs to the ropes. Akron peppered the Cougars goal with 11 shots in the first half, forcing four saves from Kees Heemskerk.
The game evened out after the break. Akron still enjoyed the lions share of possession, but The College found their feet. The home side looked as if they went ahead when Tanner Clay buried a header off a set piece but was ruled offside.
The talking point of the game came in the 70th minute, when Ike Crook was dealt a red card after going into a challenge with D Robbie Derschang. The referee deemed the challenge to be a stomp instead of tackle, and the Cougars were left to hang on, down a man for the final twenty minutes.
Akron went on the ascendency until the final. The Zips finally broke through in the 80th minute with a fantastic bit of combination play in the box, when Matt Foldsey linked with Aodhan Quinn for the opener.
Charleston’s fate was sealed in the 87th minute when Tam McGowan misdirected a corner kick swung in by MF Adam Najem.
After Crook was sent off the Cougars were unable to get even a glimpse at goal, and went without a shot in the final 20 minutes.
Post game Coach Lundy spoke of the referee’s decision “It’s tough, because the red card came at a time of the game when we were playing very well.”
The College of Charleston will play Xavier on Sunday at 2:30 PM on the final day of the Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic.
TOP IMAGE: Cougars senior keeper let only one ball get past him in the season opener. Kim Morgan Gregory photo. Gregory’s gallery from this match can be found here.