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No.1 Seed Akron Look to Claim a Third Straight MAC Championship

This season hasn't turned out exactly as the Zips men's soccer team had planned, but Jared Embick and his team will need to be on their A-game to dispatch Western Michigan at FirstEnergy Stadium on Friday.

No. 1 seed Akron take on No. 4 seed Western Michigan for a shot at the MAC Tournament final game.
No. 1 seed Akron take on No. 4 seed Western Michigan for a shot at the MAC Tournament final game.
Richard Heathcote

No. 1 seed Akron will take on No. 4 seed Western Michigan at home to start off the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Friday at 7 p.m.

While Western Michigan (8-6-4) are the lowest team to enter the tournament, they are also the only team that has beaten the Zips (11-6-1); and they did it on Akron's home turf. And although the Zips lost 1-0, that was in October and more importantly that wasn't during the postseason.

Akron typically look like a different beast after the regular season is over, as records and goal difference no longer matter. Something else that bodes in the Zips' favor is that they have beaten the other two teams that are competing for the MAC crown. They battled back to score two goals and beat No. 2 seed West Virginia 3-2 and held out for a 1-0 win at Bowling Green, courtesy of an early goal by Adam Najem.

NAJEM, sophomore midfielder currently has 11 goals and nine assists in 18 games played and has four game-winning goals this season. And if the Zips do indeed beat Western Michigan, they will need their midfield talisman to defeat the winner of the Bowling Green-West Virginia game, who play the opening game of the tournament at 4 p.m.

The winner of that game will play the winner of the Akron game on Sunday for a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. And if the Zips hope to win their third-straight MAC championship, they will need to replicate their late season form. But to do that they must try to banish the demons of August and early September, where they dropped four straight games against Maryland, Syracuse, New Mexico and South Florida.

After that poor run of form, Akron only lost two more games all season. If coach Jared Embick can convince his team to continue the relative hot streak that they ended the season with, another NCAA Tournament appearance could be in the cards for the No. 1 seeded team.