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Abby Townsend (16) fights a defender for the ball during the Ohio versus Northern Illinois match at Chessa Field on Oct. 6, 2022.

Soccer: Ohio beats Akron 3-0 in final match to secure playoff spot

Ohio (5-7-5, 3-4-3 Mid-American Conference) hosted Akron (3-13-1, 1-8-1) at Chessa Field on Thursday. The matchup was the regular season's final match and MAC matchup before the playoffs began. Ohio still had a method of crashing the MAC tournament, but it needed to win while needing both Buffalo and Toledo to lose their respective matches.

At the beginning of the match, it was easy to see the aggression from the Ohio offense early on. Ohio got a quick start with a corner kick only 19 seconds into the match and a shot attempt less than a minute in. 

The team kept the offensive pressure on throughout the first half, outshooting Akron 8 to 1. The defense also kept its usual pressure on Akron, only allowing one shot and one corner kick with zero shots-on-goal in the first 45 minutes.

In the 43rd minute, Ohio pushed down the field, looking to go ahead before halftime. Forward Jaimason Brooker found forward Maia Kaufman deep in Akron territory. Kaufman passed to midfielder Izzi Boyd, who put a shot in the back of the net to give Ohio a 1-0 lead going into halftime. 

After the break, Ohio came out more intense than the first half on both sides. The defense picked up where it left off and stifled Akron's shot attempts all match. In the second half of action, Akron managed only two shots in the second half with zero corner kicks and only one shot-on-goal. 

Head coach Aaron Rodgers had high praise for his team’s defensive improvement after last season.

“We needed to defend a little bit better, so we changed our shape a little bit, had people step up, and (we) really improved this season,“ Rodgers said. "We’ve only conceded 17 goals all season, and that’s tied for the record in program history."

As the second half went on, the effective play of Ohio’s defense allowed the offense to apply pressure and utilize its scoring opportunities to put the game out of reach.

In the 76th minute, midfielder Carsyn Priggie found Izzi Boyd open in the Akron box. Boyd put the pass right into the back of the Akron net to give Ohio a 2-0 advantage late.

Even though the game was becoming out of reach for Akron, Ohio kept the pressure on throughout the final minutes to leave no doubt. In the 82nd minute, Ohio midfielder Eve Berish intercepted an Akron pass and put the ball past the goalkeeper to give Ohio a 3-0 lead.

At the end of the match, Ohio won 3-0. A productive offense and a tough defensive effort elevated Ohio to a much-needed victory in the final regular season match.

After the match concluded, it was relayed to Ohio that both Buffalo (1-2 vs. Kent) and Toledo (1-3 at Western Michigan) had lost their respective matches and that Ohio would advance to the MAC tournament via a tiebreaker.

Ohio jumped from 8th to 6th place during the final day of the MAC regular season and secured a playoff appearance. Ohio’s first-round matchup will be Sunday, Oct. 29, when the team travels to challenge the No. 3 seed, Ball State, for the right to advance to the semifinals.

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