Falcons, nationally-ranked Zips finish in scoreless tie

AKRON — The Bowling Green State University men’s soccer team, playing on the road against nationally-ranked Akron, shared the Mid-American Conference points in scoreless draw on Monday night.

The Falcons battled the No. 20 ranked Zips at FirstEnergy Stadium.

BGSU junior goalkeeper Brendan Graves (Perrsyburg) made a pair of saves, both in the final five minutes of the second half, as he and the Falcons (3-4-5, 1-1-2 MAC) kept a clean sheet for the second consecutive match.

On a cold, windy night with occasional rain, the Zips (8-2-4, 3-0-2 MAC) held the advantage in the shots department. The Zips have two draws vs. the Falcons and three wins against the rest of the conference.

But Graves and the back line turned away every threat by the home team.

“We have one of the best defenses in the country and holding Akron to one goal in two games is testimony to that,” said BGSU coach Eric Nichols.

“We are disappointed not to get more out of the game, but I am really proud of the way the boys battled both a good opponent and the conditions tonight.”

Eleven minutes into the match, Jason Shokalook fired a shot on an Akron counterattack. That shot, from the top of the box, curved toward the left post, but BGSU junior defenseman Joey Akpunonu was positioned on the goal line and easily headed the ball away.

Midway through the half, Jonas Buechte fired a shot after a BGSU giveaway, but his effort curved wide of the right post.

The Zips, playing with the wind at their backs in the opening half, put a pair of shots from distance well over the crossbar over the next 20 minutes.

And, Akron had a pair of shot attempts in the final minute of the period, but both efforts were blocked by BGSU defenders.

Early in the second half, a steal by the Falcons resulted in senior midfielder Nathan Masters heading into the box on the left side. Masters hit a cross into the goalmouth, but it was grabbed out of the air by goalkeeper Mitch Budler.

Midway through the half, several minutes apart, BGSU seniori midfiedler Sergi Martinez played a pair of crosses.

His cross from the right side was just out of junior midfielder Kyle Cusimano’s reach on the six-yard line in the center of the field.

Martinez hit a cross from the left side, and Cusimano’s backheel kept the ball moving toward the danger zone, but Budler was able to grab it.

With just under 25 minutes to go, the Falcons quickly headed forward after an offside call on Akron. Cusimano cut from left to right just outside the box on the left side, and the junior hit a low, hard shot. The striker put the ball on frame, but Budler made the save.

Not long after, the Falcons worked the ball back into the penalty area. From the left side, Martinez fired a low ball toward the far post, but it rolled just wide and out of play.

Graves made a pair of saves in the final four minutes of the match. First, he ranged to his left to grab Buechte’s curving shot. Then, Ryan Kingsford headed a diagonal ball on frame, but Graves easily plucked that shot out of the air.

The Zips had a 12-2 advantage in total shot attempts, but Akron put only three of those shots on frame. BGSU had one shot on goal on the evening.

BGSU and Akron are 2-2-2 in the last six meetings, including a pair of draws this season. The teams battled to a 1-1 tie a week and a half ago (Oct. 6) at Cochrane Stadium.

No scoring, or no-scoring games, have been the Modus Operandi for the Falcons this season.

For the 10th time in 12 matches this season, the Falcons and the opponent were scoreless at the half.

BGSU has now blanked the opponent in the first half in 13 of the last 14 matches, dating to last November.

Graves and the BGSU back line kept a clean sheet for the second-straight match and the fifth time this season. Graves now has a goals-against average of 0.5 in MAC play this fall.

BGSU has allowed just seven goals in 12 matches this season. The Falcons have not given up more than one goal in a match since last year’s NCAA Championships second-round contest at Indiana.

The Falcons face Chicago State for the second time in eight days when the Cougars come to town for a Friday matchup.

First touch is set for 7 p.m. at Cochrane Stadium, with Senior Night festivities taking place prior to the match.