A bit of a stunner from the land of rubber: the Akron Zips won't win the MAC. They took all sorts of regular season accolades: the Player of the Year (Darren Mattocks), Coach of the Year (Caleb Porter), Newcomer of the Year (Wil Trapp), and seven of the 11 first team All-MAC positions. None of this was enough, apparently, for the 21st-ranked team (13-4-3) to handle Western Michigan in the MAC soccer first round/semifinals. WMU improves to 7-11-2 on the year with the victory in penalty kicks.
Akron struck first in the 65th minute on a header by Matt Dagilis thanks to a cross by Scott Caldwell and a header by Darren Mattocks. In the 84th minute the Broncos tied it up thanks to a Doug Raak header off a free kick; it was Raak's first goal of the year, and what a better time for it. WMU won 4-3 on penalty kicks after Mattocks' shot sailed high in the fifth round.
On the other side, Northern Illinois downed Buffalo 1-0 to advance to Sunday's 3 p.m. championship, so while UA is much of a surprise to be knocked out, NIU and WMU were picked second and third in the MAC; so this is about right given the madness.
NIU has to be the favorite here; they have the All-MAC goalkeeper Jordan Godsey, beat WMU 3-0 in their regular season meeting, and just have the deeper team overall. WMU did outlast Akron and get it to the wacky penalty kick situation, so if they can maintain a tie through that, anything can happen.
The winner goes to the NCAA tournament; it'll remain to be seen if Akron gets an at-large bid, but with 64 teams and I think 23 auto-bids, it seems pretty likely the Zips get in somewhere.