Kofi Sarkodie
Ernie Aranyosi/U. of Akron

L'ville, Akron, Michigan book College Cup

Thrilling comebacks, last-second winners and penalty kicks. The final three games of the NCAA quarterfinals had it all, with heart-racing action that saw Akron, Louisville and Michigan join North Carolina to round out the four teams in the College Cup.

Saturday’s three games saw a total of 20 goals hit the back of the net, as teams faced do-or-die elimination.

The day began with an upset. Upstart Michigan, riding an eight-game win streak, traveled to College Park to tussle with Maryland. Two of the best offenses in the league battle back and forth, with Michigan native Casey Townsend scoring against his home state school to give Maryland a 1-0.

With the three-headed monster of Sooney and Hamoody Saad and Justin Meram to contend with, other Wolverines had to step up to force the upset. And that they did – Jeff Quijano tied the game early in the second half, before setting up Meram to give Michigan the edge just 10 minutes later.

A Jason Herrick goal leveled the score with just 12 minutes to go, pushing the game into sudden-death overtime. And it was another unsung hero for Michigan, as Fabio Pereira scored in the 104th minute to advance the Wolverines to their first-ever College Cup.

The second game of the day featured 2009 runners-up Akron clashing with California. The Golden Bears took the lead in front of a hostile crowd, as Anthony Avalos tallied in the 31st minute. But as they’ve done all season, the Zips struck back in waves, as Michael Nanchoff and Scott Caldwell both scored to put Akron in front just before halftime.

After a wild first half, the second stanza was even more frenetic. Cal equalized through Tony Salciccia, before Perry Kitchen grabbed what could have been a came winner. But John Fitzpatrick tied things up with just over a minute to go, and after 20 minutes of overtime, the game went to penalties tied at 3-3.

Enter Akron ‘keeper David Meves. One of the least heralded of the Zips’ superstar squad, the sophomore stuffed two consecutive Cal attempts, setting the table for defender Kofi Sarkodie (pictured at top) to smash home the winning penalty.

Even after two wild games, the best was yet to come. No. 1 seed Louisville put its 20-game unbeaten streak on the line against UCLA, escaping with a monstrous 5-4 come-from-behind victory.

Disaster loomed for the Cardinals on home turf after just 35 minutes. A rampant UCLA attack pinned Louisville back 3-1. Eder Arreola, Kelyn Rowe and Chandler Hoffman did the damage for the Bruins, as Colin Rolfe mustered the lone response for Louisville.

But a Charlie Campbell goal for Louisville before the half meant it was 3-2 at the break, restoring hope and confidence in the No. 1-ranked side. And the Cardinals continued to battle, as Rolfe tied it right after the half. Eight minutes later, Nick Deloen gave Louisville an unlikely lead.

Just when the Bruins looked buried, another freshman star, Victor Chavez equalized in the 80th minute. But it was be heartbreak at the end of the day for UCLA, as Aaron Horton scored with only seconds left to avoid overtime and cap a nine-goal thriller in Kentucky.

The final four schools will head to Santa Barbara, Calif., for next weekend’s College Cup. Louisville will take on UNC in the semifinals on Friday, Dec. 10, while Akron will face Michigan. The winners meet in next Sunday’s final.

LATEST CREW KITS: The official jerseys featuring Nationwide Children's Hospital are out now!