BLACKSBURG, Va. – The Virginia Tech Hokies battled and held the No. 1 undefeated Akron Zips scoreless until the 36th minute of play, but were unable to generate any goals of their own, falling 2-0 on Tuesday night at Thompson Field.
Akron (12-0-0) scored the first goal with less than 10 minutes to play in the first half and added a second goal for cushion in the 79th minute to earn their nation-best 12th win of the season.
The Hokies (3-7-2) played two solid halves, earning nine shots overall and stringing together many close scoring opportunities against an Akron defense that has only let up two goals all season. Tech’s defense also rose to the occasion, holding an offensively-stacked Zips’ offense scoreless for the first 36 minutes of play.
Akron found its break when a speedy Teal Bunbury caught up to a pass from Kofi Sarkodie and buried it in the lower right corner beyond the reach of keeper Stefan Caulfield to give the Zips the 1-0 lead. The score marked Bunbury’s conference-leading 10th goal of the season.
Tech saw an opportunity of their own in the 32nd minute with a scramble inside the Akron box, but couldn’t knock the ball in. They also strung together an attack in the final minute of the first stanza as Alexander Baden took a header shot that missed just high, and Emmanuel Akogyeram followed up with a shot that sailed over the goal, but neither was close enough to challenge Akron’s goalkeeper, David Meves.
The Hokies came out aggressively after the break, attacking the Akron defense immediately. Freshman David Fiorello took a shot within the first 90 seconds of play that set up a Hokie corner kick, but a shot by James Shupp was blocked. Minutes later, the home squad earned a free kick just outside the box but Gregory Cochrane’s attempt missed the crossbar by inches.
Tech continued to pressure Meves and the Zips’ defense throughout the game, but couldn’t find the lucky break on any of their close chances. Shupp led the Hokies with two shots, while seven other players tallied an attempt.
“I thought our effort tonight was tremendous,” said Tech’s head coach Mike Brizendine. “Akron had several talented players who made things very difficult for us, and they withstood our pressure throughout the game. Early in the second half, we had some opportunities, which had we been able to score, may have changed tonight’s outcome, but unfortunately they didn’t fall.”
The Zips added an insurance goal in the 79th minute as Tech’s defense committed a foul within the box while trying to stop an Akron breakaway. Blair Gavin’s penalty kick was successful, marking his fourth goal of the season, and giving the Zips’ the 2-0 lead and eventual win.
“Once they scored the second goal, it took wind out of our sails,” Brizendine said. “Stefan (Caulfield) deserves a lot of credit. He made some outstanding saves tonight and really kept us in the game.”
Caulfield earned his second consecutive start in net, collecting six saves on the night, many of which were key diving rejections that kept the Hokies alive.
Tech will be back in action on Saturday, as they host in-state ACC rival, No. 11 Virginia, in a 7 p.m. match at Thompson Field.
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