It was a glorious day for Northeast Ohio – in Santa Barbara.
The University of Akron won its first NCAA championship in any sport by blanking Louisville 1-0 on Sunday afternoon in the final of the College Cup.
A sun-drenched crowd of 9,672 watched the two most successful teams in college soccer this year battle it out at UCSB’s Harder Stadium.
Scott Caldwell, a sophomore midfielder, scored the decisive goal in the 78th minute when he collected his own rejected shot off the rebound and hammered a 15-yard shot high under the crossbar.
Louisville, which had not lost a game all year, almost sent it into overtime during a wild scramble in front of the goal with a minute remaining. But two shots by the Cardinals were parried by the Zips off the goal line.
Before the game, Akron’s Perry Kitchen said a championship would bring joy to the beleaguered greater Cleveland area. “In Northeast Ohio we don’t have too many great teams,” Kitchen said. “For us to win would be amazing. The community would go nuts.”
After the triumph, Zips defender Zarek Valentin said, “A lot of times when people think about Akron now, you hear LeBron James’ name and that whole fiasco, but now it gives people a positive look. It says, ‘Oh that’s where they have a pretty good soccer team.’”
The Akron delegation will leave Santa Barbara with fond memories. For Zips coach Caleb Porter, it was the second time he celebrated a championship in California. He was on the Indiana coaching staff in 2004 when the Hoosiers captured the cup at the Home Depot Center in Carson. They won a penalty kick shootout after a 1-1 draw with UCSB.
“California has been good to me,” Porter said. “I would like to have the College Cup here every year. It’s been good luck.”