In STACK’s 4th Annual Elite 50 Colleges, the University of Akron men’s soccer team jumped to a fifth-place finish. But after capturing the 2010 NCAA men’s soccer title on Dec. 12, AK Rowdy fans can be confident that their team will move up even further in next year’s rankings.
Being a small Mid-American Conference school hasn’t stopped the Zips from knocking off top teams whenever they step on the pitch. Their 2-1 victory over Michigan in the semi-finals put them back into the College Cup for the second straight year.
After last year’s loss to Virginia on penalty kicks, Akron closed out #1-ranked Louisville late in the second half of the 2010 championship game, with the lone goal scored from the top of the Cardinals’ box by Zips midfielder Scott Caldwell.
Prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, junior defender Kofi Sarkodie revealed to STACK why the Zips have been so successful on the pitch and in the classroom over the past few years.
ATHLETICS: Every player sets his ego aside. That, in part, is what propelled the team to the NCAA Division I championship game two years in a row.
“Everyone knows their roles on the team,” Sarkodie said. “Everyone knows exactly what he needs to do and does it to a full extent. That provides unity within the team, which allows us to accomplish as much success as we have.”
Their bond of brotherhood played a vital role in motivating the players’ intense efforts throughout every 90-minute match. Sarkodie said, “When you’re on the pitch, you got to fight for a guy next to you. When you have such close friends who really do take an interest in each other, it makes you want to work that much harder for them.”
ACADEMICS: Akron earns an A+ on the pitch, but head coach Caleb Porter is even more interested in the academic performance of his athletes. “Coach Porter’s philosophy is that school is number one, and fútbol is a close second,” Sarkodie said. “He expects us to give as much work in the classroom as we put in on the pitch.”
To keep the Zips focused on their studies, Porter implements mandatory study hours, which differ in relation to the athletes’ GPAs. Freshmen and players who are struggling academically are required to log at least eight hours a week of study sessions with a tutor or study group. Sarkodie said the team’s overall GPA hovers at 3.5.
ATMOSPHERE: The small MAC school has a huge fan base. “The AK Rowdy [comprised of Akron students, athletes and the community] are some of the greatest fans in the country,” Sarkodie said. “We don’t lose often at home, because [the fans] are our 12th man. They helped carry us throughout the season. They kept us fighting and kept us positive throughout our NCAA tournament run. They’re a huge support [system].”