Soccer: Scouting the Zips

When Indiana travels to Akron, Ohio, fans of the sport know a great match is on the books. After not seeing the Zips all season, here is a quick look into the MAC champions.

Indiana enters the NCAA tournament on an absolute high, winning its last four games for their longest winning streak of the season in addition to winning the Big Ten tournament.

The next opponent may be the brick wall. In Monday's selection show, Indiana was picked to play a first round match-up with recent rival Akron (16-3-1) on Thursday.

While Indiana holds a 24-6-2 overall winning record against Akron, the Hoosiers have played the Zips several times in the past few years with very little to show for it. The Hoosiers haven't beaten Akron since 2006, and in 2010, the Zips made easy work of them en route to winning a national title.

Advancing will be a tall task, even without Caleb Porter at the helm, who led Akron to that 2010 title. The Zips played several other Big Ten opponents this year, knocking off both Michigan and Penn State, but playing to a draw against the Spartans of Michigan State. They are also currently on a winning streak of their own, encompassing six straight games and haven't lost since the beginning of October.

The attack of the Zips is outstanding, firing off 396 shots so far this year, and sending 152 of them toward goal. Akron has scored 30 goals this season, four of them coming in its most recent win over Western Michigan for the MAC tournament championship.

The three-headed scoring machine of Adam Najem, Reinaldo Bernes, and Eric Stevenson has combined for 15 goals and the same number of assists this year, making up half of the total scoring output for the team.

It also looks as though this will be a contest between freshman goalkeepers, as Indiana head coach will likely stick with Colin Webb, who has only allowed a single goal since stepping up at the beginning of the team's winning streak.

For Akron, Fernando Pina has started all but two matches for the Zips, allowing only 12 goals while recording 43 saves.

It's easy to point out the Indiana will be the underdog in this first round match-up. But then again, they have been the underdog for some time now, and look how the results have been going for the Hoosiers. I doubt the home crowd in Akron will faze them much, not with the amount of focus this team has shown in the past week.

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