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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On the strength of an early goal by Reinaldo Brenes, the No. 10 University of Akron men's soccer team earned their third consecutive 1-0 victory in a key Mid-American Conference match at West Virginia Sunday night.
With the win, the Zips improved to 7-2-0 overall and 2-0-0 in MAC play while the Mountaineers suffered their fourth straight defeat in falling to 3-5-1, 0-1-0.
Moreover, Akron extended its NCAA record-setting conference unbeaten streak to 49 matches (46-0-3), which began during the 2007 season.
The Zips wasted little time jumping on the Mountaineers, scoring the game's lone goal in just the fifth minute. Eric Stevenson recorded the first of two quick shots for the Zips with a liner that was punched out by West Virginia keeper Brent Arnold but Brenes were there to jump on the rebound and bury it from straight away.
It was the senior striker's team-leading fourth goal of the season and the second time the Hermann Trophy candidate has found the back of the net in his last three matches. More importantly, all four of Brenes' goals this year have been game winners.
"It was a good 1-0 win for our team," said Zips head coach Jared Embick. "West Virginia is a much better team than their record shows. To go on the road and get the win is a great result."
Akron received strong contributions from a number of players, including Brad Ruhaak, who made his first start as a Zip on the back line.
"Once again, we have shown that we have very good depth," Embick said. "Ruhaak played very well in his first game. Clint Caso (who entered the match in the 54th minute) was excellent and Riley Grant (who came on in the 71st) was a handful off the bench.
"We also received great leadership from our seniors, from Bryan Gallego and Robbie Derschang in the back to Eric Stevenson and Reinaldo Brenes up top. I am very pleased with our win tonight and we will continue to find ways to improve and become even stronger as the season progresses."
West Virginia didn't have many scoring chances in the first half after being held to just three shots, but could have pulled even in the 15th minute had it not been for a superb save by Zips' goalkeeper Fernando Pina.
Following an Akron turnover, WVU's Jay Williams made a dangerous run through the Akron back line on a counter and fired a shot from 15 yards out that had a chance. But Pina, who finished with three saves, came up with a big stop, lunging to his right to preserve the Zips' lead.
The second half was more balanced as both teams had opportunities to influence the score.
In particular, WVU had a couple of quality chances early on when Christian Diaz one-timed a rocket from the top of the box that sailed just wide of the left post in the 55th minute and Andy Bevin hit the crossbar with a header shortly after.
The Zips' best opportunities cames late when Matt Foldesy hit the post in the 84th minute and Grant had a good look that resulted in one of six saves on the night for Arnold.
Winners of their last four matches, the Zips will return home to face Hartwick next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Zips Notebook: Sunday night was just the third time Akron had played at West Virginia in a series that dates back to the 1966 season ... UA is 10-2-1 all-time versus WVU and 2-1 in Morgantown ... all but one of Akron's nine matches this season, including each of the last eight, have been determined by one goal ... the Zips are 6-2-0 in one-goal games in 2013.