Photo by Akron Athletics
The first obstacle to a NCAA championship three-peat for Stanford comes in the form of the MAC champions, Akron.
Appearing in their 14th consecutive NCAA tournament and fifth-ever College Cup, the Zips have a long history of success at the DI level, including their lone title in 2010 and their runner-up finish in 2009. The Zips are seeking their second title this time around, aiming to become the 12th team to have multiple championships, tying Stanford, UNC-Chapel Hill, Michigan State, UConn and Clemson with two.
Whereas the Stanford Cardinal rely on their defense as their primary source of success, the Zips are an offensive powerhouse with few peers in DI. The team's 50 goals are tied for third-best in the nation, behind Wake Forest and fellow College Cup team UNC-Chapel Hill.
That isn't to say that the Zips can't play defense. On the contrary, the team has allowed just 12 goals and its 0.505 goals-against average is good for fifth in the nation. That includes a streak of eight straight wins to close the year that included six shutouts, as well as shutouts against Seattle and Louisville in the NCAA tournament so far.
After rolling through the regular season with a 18-3-2 record (4-1-0, MAC), the Zips captured their sixth straight MAC title by defeating Western Michigan in the conference tournament. Now they'll aim to push that further with their first finals appearance since their 2010 title.
Here's a closer look at the 2017 Akron Zips season.
Regular Season Record: 14-3-1 (4-1-0, MAC)
Goals For: 50
Goals Against: 12
Conference Finish: Champions (Def. Western Michigan, 3-1)
Key Wins: #10 Washington, 2-0 (9/1); #21 UMass Lowell, 5-0 (9/24); #1 Michigan State, 4-1 (9/27); #8 Notre Dame, 2-0 (10/17); #20 Pittsburgh, 3-0 (10/24); #25 West Virginia, 4-0 (10/27); #4 Western Michigan, 3-1 (11/12 - MAC Tournament)
Key Losses/Draws: #16 Utah Valley, 0-1 (8/25); #3 Denver, 0-1 (8/28); #12 Western Michigan, 0-1 (10/7)
(2) D Joao Moutinho
(5) D Marc Alexander
(6) M Skye Harter
(9) F Stuart Holthusen
(11) Reggie Laryea
(12) F Marcel Zajac
(13) M Pau Belana
(14) F David Egbo
(19) M Dener Dos Santos
(20) D Alex Mapp
(21) M Christian Lue Young
(25) D Daniel Strachan
(26) M Faisal Ghaffur
(27) D Declan Watters
(28) GK Nick Costa
(29) F Braden Petno
(30) GK Codie Lynd