There were 30 penalty shots taken and 25 converted on Thursday night. The stat speaks for itself, but the only one that mattered to the Akron Zips was the one that passed Alex Ivanov to give the Ohio State Buckeyes a 13-12 (1-1) double overtime victory that advances them to the second round of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship.
Redshirt-freshman Robby Dambrot saw his penalty saved in the 15th round--the PK attempts recorded in NCAA Div. I history--before Akron goalkeeper Jake Fenlason watched the Buckeyes' last attempt find the back of the net to end the Zips' postseason.
But Fenlason did everything he could to keep his team in it. The junior from San Diego registered two saves, one in the third and the other in the 11th round. Alex Ivanov, Ohio State's 'keeper, was just a but better, matching his efforts by coming up with saves in the same rounds and denying the crucial penalty in the last to secure a game against No. 1 seeded Notre Dame in the next round.
The game against Notre Dame seemed to be on the Zips' mind as they went ahead in the 31st minute as sophomore midfielder Adam Najem put the ball in the back of the net courtesy of a spot kick. The penalty was the third that the Zips have received in the past three games and Ivanov didn't reach this one as Najem scored his team-leading 14th goal of th season. The penalty resulted because senior Saad Abdul-Salaam fell in the box on a corner and the Buckeyes were whistled for the foul.
The advantage wouldn't last though, as a neatly placed free kick by OSU's Kyle Culbertson beat Fenlason and evened the affair in the 67th minute. Despite some pushing and prodding by each team's forwards, the score would remain the same through the end of regular time and into the frigid depths of each 15 minute overtime period.
Both teams were forced to call in bench players to take penalties, including some players who hadn't played in the match, and the Buckeyes depth proved to much for Akron.
The Zips concluded the season at 13-6-2, while the Buckeyes go into the next round at 9-7-5. It was a disappointing year for Akron coach Jared Embick and his crew, but with a young, established core of strong players, the Zips will be probably taste NCAA soccer again in 2015.