Cup Notes: Message rings true for Akron’s Valentin

Akron sophomore defender Zarek Valentin received a multimedia message on his cell phone that would motivate him to help the Zips get back to the NCAA Men’s Soccer College Cup and win it.

Julian Valentin, Zarek’s older brother, sent a photo of the ring he won for winning the College Cup title with Wake Forest back in 2007.

“Earlier in the year he sent me a picture of his national championship ring and said, ‘It’s your turn now,‘ “ Zarek recalled.

The photo was eventually purged from his phone, but the message remained clear to Zarek.

“I used it for inspiration and now I’m just trying to get my own,” said Zarek. “I basically have to go out there and try to emulate what he did, because he was such a great player for his team.”

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Akron (21-1-2) and Louisville (20-0-3) both are seeking their first national title in soccer on Sunday. For Akron, it would be the first championship in any sport. Louisville has a NCAA title in men’s basketball.

Players on both teams say the title would create a big commotion back home.

“Being there for a year, it really means a lot more than anyone could imagine. It would mean the world to some people,” said Valentin.

Said freshman Perry Kitchen: “It would mean a lot in Ohio. In northeast Ohio, we don’t have too many great teams. For us to win, it would be amazing. The community would obviously go nuts. They’ve been behind us.”

Louisville senior midfielder Charlie Campbell said he’s learned through text messages and social media that people are excited back in Kentucky.

“Ken (Lolla) had a message from the (UNLV at Louisville) basketball game,” Campbell said. “We heard they had a standing ovation for the soccer team at the arena.”

Senior defender J.T. Murray said the school gave the team a send-off party before it came west. “It was amazing. A lot of fans came out that had supported us throughout the last NCAA wins we had. For those who could not make it out here, we have a lot of support back home.”

Murray said winning the first national title will only encourage future Louisville teams to follow their lead.

“Just win the first one, then try to win the second and third, and for years to come, as new players come in, you create a dynasty or winning frenzy.”

MIDWEST IS BEST:: Louisville coach Ken Lolla said players in the region have the great combination of work ethic and technical ability.

“I do think there’s a balance between being a team that can mentally and physically stand up to the challenges of the game and still be able to play technically,” he said. “I think there are a lot of teams like that in the Midwest. There are a number of teams that can do both those things.

“To be successful in the NCAA Tournament you have to be able to do that, and it’s not a surprise to me that you find that in the Midwest, because it’s present in the character of the people there. I’m not saying you can’t find it elsewhere, I’m just saying it’s indicative of the Midwest.”

IT’S NOT EASY: Louisville is trying to become the first team since Santa Clara in 1989 to win the championship with an undefeated record.

Akron fell short last year, losing the final against Virginia in a penalty-kick shootout.

PRESSURE? WHAT PRESSURE? Asked if the team felt any pressure being undefeated and No. 1 going into the final, Louisville’s Campbell said, “Coach has told us since the beginning that pressure is felt by the untrained and the unprepared. He has trained us well throughout the whole season. We’re more anxious to play. I don’t think any of the guys feel pressure at all.”

Said Murray: “The only ranking that matters is after tomorrow.”

Akron’s Porter said his team is relaxed going into the final.

“We’re excited more than anything to be here and have the chance to win the national championship,” he said. “It’s been a long journey to get here. We’re the No. 3 seed, so we’re the underdog. It’s almost like the tables have turned in some ways. Last year we were the No. 1 seed and undefeated, and now we’re the No. 3 seed and the pressure is off us. We get to go out and have fun and play, and show the country what we’re all about — our brand.”

BIDDING FOR THE CUP: Alabama Birmingham will host the 2011 College Cup, and UCSB is expected to put in a bid for the 2012 Cup.

NSCAA HONORS: UCSB senior defender Michael Boxall was named to the third team of the NSCAA All-American Team.

Of the 36 players recognized, North Carolina and Cal led the way with three honorees each. Michael Farfan, Enzo Martinez and Jalil Anibaba were the Tar Heels selected. Cal’s trio was A.J. Soares, David Bingham and Davis Paul.

Akron had two players (Darlington Nagbe and Kofi Sarkodie) chosen as did Louisville (Austin Berry and Colin Rolfe).

Pos., Player, Class, School, Hometown
K, Zac MacMath*, Jr., Maryland, St. Petersburg, Fla.
D, Kofi Sarkodie, Jr., Akron, Huber Heights, Ohio
D, A.J. Soares, Sr., California, Solana Beach, Calif.
D, Andrew Wenger, So., Duke, Lititz, Pa.
M, Michael Farfan*, Sr., North Carolina, Wildomar, Calif.
M, Matt Kassel, Jr., Maryland, Bridgewater, N.J.
M, Ryan Kinne*, Sr., Monmouth, Naugatuck, Conn.
M, Ben Sippola, Sr., Butler, Northfield, Minn.
F, Will Bruin, Jr., Indiana, St. Louis, Mo.
F, Tony Cascio, Jr., Connecticut, Gilbert, Ariz.
F, Darlington Nagbe*, Jr., Akron, Lakewood, Colo.
F, Colin Rolfe*, Jr., Louisville, Canton, Mich.

K, David Bingham, Jr., California, Pleasanton, Calif.
D, Jalil Anibaba, Sr., North Carolina, Davis, Calif.
D, Austin Berry, Jr., Louisville, Cincinnati, Ohio
D, Matt Hedges, Jr., Butler, Carmel, Ind.
M, Nathaniel Baako, Sr., William & Mary, Accra, Ghana
M, Matheus Braga, Sr., Penn State, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
M, Arthur Ivo, Jr., SMU, Braganca Paulista, Brazil
F, Ethan Finlay, Jr., Creighton, Marshfield, Wis.
F, Jason Herrick, Sr., Maryland, Elmhurst, Ill.
F, Corey Hertzog, Jr., Penn State, Reading, Pa.
F, Antoine Hoppenot, Jr., Princeton, Princeton, N.J.
F, Soony Saad, Fr., Michigan, Dearborn, Mich.

K, Josh Ford, Sr., Connecticut, Liverpool, N.Y.
D, RJ Allen, Jr., Monmouth, Old Bridge, N.J.
D, Michael Boxall, Sr., UC Santa Barbara, Auckland, New Zealand
D, Marcello Castro, So., Sacred Heart, Parana, Brazil
M, Rafael Baca, Sr., Loyola Marymount, Lawndale, Calif.
M, Warren Creavalle, Jr., Central Florida, Acworth, Ga.
M, Enzo Martinez, So., North Carolina, Rock Hill, S.C.
M, Kelyn Rowe, Fr., UCLA, Federal Way, Wash.
F, Ryan Finley, So., Duke, Lumberton, N.J.
F, Levi Houapeu, Sr., UMBC, Germantown, Md.
F, Karo Okiomah, Jr., High Point, Austin, Texas
F, Davis Paul, Sr., California, Upland, Calif.
*indicates prior selection