Penn State men’s soccer hosts nonconference showdown versus Akron
Penn State is set to host Akron this Sunday at 4 p.m. on Jeffrey Field.
The Nittany Lions enter Sunday’s matchup with a record of 3-2-2, 1-0-1 in conference play. Penn State is red-hot, with their last loss coming two weeks ago against Princeton. Since then, the Nittany Lions faced two tough in-conference squads, defeating Wisconsin 2-1 and tying No. 9 Maryland on the road 3-3.
Penn State coach Jeff Cook has his team fired up after drawing against a ranked Maryland team last time out. The blue and white brought a different level of intensity and aggressiveness to the match, staying in its defensive lanes and not allowing free opportunities in the box. The squad did not look outmatched or intimidated in the slightest.
This matchup against the Zips will test the Nittany Lions in a different way, however. Although the Zips play in the MAC conference against weaker competition, they have proven themselves against ranked Big Ten opponents.
Akron started off the season 4-0, downing No. 18 FIU, along with unranked VCU, Wright State, and Michigan State. They’ve struggled as of late, falling to No. 11 Indiana 2-0 and drawing with No. 22 Ohio State and No. 3 Pittsburgh.
The Zips are one of few teams that have faced four ranked teams already this season. Sitting at 4-1-2, with the schedule that they have had so far, Akron is not to be underestimated. Penn State will have their work cut out for them.
The blue and white is led by junior forward Peter Mangione, who is putting together another incredible season. The reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year has a team leading 10 points, notching four goals and two assists in seven games played.
Mangione will be without his second-in-command for the second straight game. Senior midfielder Andrew Privett was sidelined due to injury last time out versus Maryland and is questionable to go against Akron.
The Nittany Lions will have to rely on the defensive leadership of senior Jalen Watson and junior Femi Awodesu, who struggled to get clearances off of a variety of set-pieces that the Terps threw their way.
Akron coach Jared Embick has his team primed for another Big Ten showdown. Embick enters his 10th season as the Zips head coach, with a career record of 113-50-20. Embick delivered Akron its 20th MAC conference title in 2019.
He will rely on his leading scorer, sophomore forward Jason Shokalook. The 6’1 attacker from Erie, Pennsylvania, has notched 10 points on the season so far, with four goals and two assists. Along with Shokalook is fellow sophomore midfielder Dyson Clapier, who is second on the team with eight points (three goals, two assists).
Akron has relied on an infusion of youth to propel them to such early success in 2022. They will meet their match on Sunday, as Penn State provides a lot of experience and veteran leadership. Penn State’s defense will have to be on high alert, needing to shut down the young athletic duo of Shokalook and Clapier to prevent being handed its third loss of the year.
Parker Silverman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.