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Soccer star misses graduation but not College Cup
Soccer star misses graduation but not College Cup
By TONY LANGE
He was on the Pacific Coast more than 2,100 miles from his hometown of Gates Mills. And attending his college graduation ceremony on Dec. 11 was out of the question. However, he was right where he wanted to be.
"Graduation was that Saturday. I was in California for the national championships, so I didn't even get to walk," said Chris Korb, a 2006 University School graduate who earned a marketing management degree from the University of Akron earlier this month.
While his classmates were back on campus for commencement, Korb was in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the second straight year preparing for the NCAA College Cup.
"I was on the beach and at the pool with 75-degree weather and everyone in Akron was walking around in the blizzard. I wasn't complaining too much," said Korb, who started all 25 games at left-outside defender for the Zips this season.
Korb also started all 25 games during the 2009 season for Akron, but that team left some unfinished business after losing the College Cup in a shootout to Virginia.
The Zips shut out all five teams they played in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, but that still wasn't enough to win it all.
"Last year, every team we played we dominated, and even in the final we dominated, but we lost in the penalty kicks which left a sour taste in everyone's mouth," Korb said. "The next day, the day we got back, we had a meeting. It was Dec. 14th, 2009.
"We said we were going to be in Santa Barbara the next year and win it, and we just used that as motivation to keep pushing and that drove us," he said.
This year, the third-seeded Zips (22-1-2) were up against the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals (20-1-3). Akron, however, had experience from 2009, and was calmer than the Cardinals, who were playing in their first national title contest, Korb said.
"I think everyone was super excited to get back there, but we expected it basically. We were happy to be there, but we weren't so happy to just be there. We wanted to win it," he said.
The first half was an even match, but then the Zips started to dominate during second-half action, Korb said. However, it remained scoreless heading into the 79th minute of a 90-minute game.
"It was just like last year's game and those thoughts kind of creep in your head," he said. "We started to gain control though and then you kind of feel it coming. It's kind of hard to explain, but the team felt it coming and we kept pushing and kept getting more and more opportunities and we just felt like we were going to get a goal."
Several of those opportunities came from corner kicks. Akron had eight corner kicks compared to Louisville's three during the second half.
Eight corner kicks in 45 minutes is a lot, Korb said.
"We're not a huge team tall-wise, so corner kicks aren't necessarily one of our strong points," he said. "But it just goes to show the run of the game and who had the possessions because we were down at their end of the field most of the second half."
At the 78:36 mark, Akron first-team All-America Anthony Ampaipitakwong sent one of those corner kicks to sophomore Scott Caldwell, who had his first shot deflected and then gathered the rebound and sent the ball to the upper-right corner from 15 yards out for the go-ahead goal.
"We knew it was going to come somewhere or another and we have a lot of ways to score," Korb said. "That's just how it happened I guess. I didn't know how we were going to score, but I just knew we were."
After the goal, the Zips knew they had to buckle down and finish the game, Korb said
Akron used its first substitute of the game at that point, Matt Speas, who played the last 11 minutes. Louisville on the other hand had five substitution players who totaled 106 minutes.
Unlike Major League or World Cup soccer, college teams are allowed to substitute starters out of the game during the first half and then put them back in the game for the second half. The Cardinals did just that.
Akron's starting line-up included two freshman, four sophomores, three juniors and two seniors. Ten of the 11 starters played the entire 90-minute game.
The Zips haven't made many substitutions all year, Korb said.
"We knew we were fit," he said. "The way we play, we try to keep the ball a lot which makes the other team run a lot more than we do. Sometimes when you run substitutions like that it breaks up your rhythm and chemistry."
After they went up 1-0 with 11 minutes to play, the Zips were still in the attacking mind-set, Korb said.
"We weren't trying to go defensive at all," he said. "The best way to defend is by attacking. If we have the ball, then they can't do anything. We definitely didn't want to just sit back and defend. Basically, that's how you hurt yourself. If you're just sitting there and giving up position of the field, then you're giving them opportunities."
By the end of the game, however, Louisville pushed their entire team forward to try to get the tying goal.
That's when the craziness happens, Korb said. You kind of have to weather the storm, he said.
During the last minute of the game, Louisville had four of its 10 shots during the 45-minute second half. Three of the shots were on goal. Two were saved by goaltender David Meves and the other was blocked and cleared from the goal line by defender Chad Barson.
"It was the craziness minute I've ever had in a soccer game," Korb said.
The Zips ended up winning 1-0 to bring Akron its first national title in any team sport.
It's just a great feeling, Korb said.
Two key decisions made it possible.
First, Korb transferred from Xavier University in Cincinnati after his freshman year
"I just knew I had to get closer to home. Akron just has a better team and there was more potential. I ended up coming to Akron and I haven't really looked back. That was probably the best decision I made," he said.
Second, Korb decided to sit out his first year with Akron after suffering a torn quad.
"I decided to take a medical redshirt so I would be able to play the next three years and it was a really good decision because I wouldn't have been a part of this team if I didn't do that," he said.
"It's great to go out on top and win your last game as a senior and win the national championship," Korb said. "I really don't think it has set in yet that we won. We still feel like we have another game coming up that we should be preparing for or something."
Korb will bask in the glory for a while and remember it for the rest of his life, he said. He is one of about 50 seniors invited to the pro soccer combine in January in Florida.
"I'll get back at it, train for that, see how it goes and try for the MLS and see what happens," he said, about playing Major League Soccer.
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