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Akron Use Two Penalties to Seal MAC Championship Berth

After losing 1-0 to Western Michigan early in the season, Akron were out for revenge on Friday night and they would get it with a 2-1 win at FirstEnergy Field.

Akron defeated Western Michigan to advance to the MAC Championship game.
Akron defeated Western Michigan to advance to the MAC Championship game.
Richard Heathcote

No. 1 seeded Akron was out for revenge against No. 4 seed Western Michigan on Friday as the Broncos had beaten them 1-0 earlier on in the season. And it looked like WMU would pull off another win at FirstEnergy Field in the first round of the MAC Tournament, but two late penalties thrusted the Zips into the MAC Championship game.

After going 1-0 down in the 55th minute, it looked as though the Broncos were going to leave FirstEnergy with another big upset win, after WMU junior Cam Jensen pushed the ball over the line after a Broncos' free kick.

But Akron were not to be denied, first earning a penalty in 71st minute and then another in the 75th minute, converting both and taking the game late against a foul-hardy WMU team.

The first penalty was awarded due to a Broncos' player tripping redshirt-freshman Sam Gainford in the box, the whistle went immediately and sophomore Adam Najem stepped up to take it. The midfielder, who also leads the team in scoring with 12 goals, calmly converted the penalty and gave the Zips hope of staying in the game.

And when the whistle blew again, this time for tripping junior forward Sean Sepe, senior midfielder Clint Caso stepped up to the spot. And he put his penalty into the far corner to clinch the win and a MAC Championship berth for the Zips.

The Broncos had a few more scoring chances going later into the game but were ultimately blocked by a stingy Akron defense. WMU also had to play the final five minutes a man-down after junior Carlos Suarez was sent off with a straight red.

This marks the third-consecutive MAC Championship game for Akron and if the team can win against Bowling Green--who used a golden goal in overtime to beat West Virginia 3-2-- on Sunday, then they can also win their third-straight MAC Tournament title.

Kick-off is at 1 p.m.