Prediction: Zips and Cards in the final

Can Akron complete its unfinished buisiness?

Is the third time the charm for North Carolina?

Can Louisville or Michigan cap their historic seasons by winning the big prize?

Those are the storylines for this weekend’s NCAA Men’s Soccer College Cup at UCSB’s Harder Stadium.

Akron has been on a mission all season to get back to the championship game and win it. The Zips have eight returning starters, including two All-Americans, from last year’s undefeated squad that fell in the final to Virginia in a penalty-kick.

Akron played a demanding schedule and beat final four teams North Carolina (3-0) and Michigan (7-1). It did, however, lose to Cleveland State (1-0).

Coach Caleb Porter said the loss was good for the Zips because it helped them regain their edge.

With that renewed determination and their skill and athleticism all over the field, the Zips should put on a good show for the fans. They’ll run at and stretch Michigan’s defense with some dandy combinations.

The Wolverines need to get freshman sensation Soony Saad and senior Justim Meram a lot of touches if they intend to stay in this game. Saad ranks second in the nation in goals with 19 and Meram is right behind with 16 and 8 assists.

Michigan also needs a huge game out of goalkeeper Chris Blais.

The Louisville-North Carolina matchup is intriguing. Unbeaten and first-timer Louisville is solid at every position and has great chemistry. North Carolina, making its third straight appearance, plays with more flair and speed but it doesn’t score a lot of goals.

The Tar Heels, however, have been nails in penalty-kick shootouts in the playoffs, the shooters making a perfect 14-for-14. Goalkeeper Scott Goodwin has come up with the huge save to their dream alive.

My picks for the semifinals: Akron has too much going forward for Michigan to contain, and the Zips’ veteran back line will make things tough for Saad and Meram. The Wolverines will need somebody else step up and score goals if they want to stay in the game.

Louisville is my choice in the other semifinal. The Cardinals showed tremendous character to come back and beat a quick-attacking UCLA team. They have great depth, balance and versatility. North Carolina moves the ball with speed, but its lack of goal-scoring punch will hurt it in the end.