ODU’s goalkeeper key to Conference USA title run

NORFOLK (WAVY) – The Old Dominion men’s soccer team won its second Conference USA tournament championship in the last four years with a 1-0 win over Charlotte last week. It was the team’s fourth straight shutout.

The man in goal is sophomore Mertcan Akar.

A transfer from Belmont University, Akar led Conference USA with nine shutouts this past season. “It’s unbelievable having a keeper we’re that confident in,” said senior Fox Slotemaker.

Akar led the nation in saves (109) over his freshman season at Belmont. ” He doesn’t want to concede in practice, he doesn’t want the soccer ball in his net,” said head coach Alan Dawson. “He’s got a mentality that goalkeepers need.”

More than an outstanding goalkeeper, Akar has perspective beyond his years. A native of Cologne, Germany, he could have chosen the professional route after his youth career, but instead decided on an education to go along with his soccer career.

“We don’t have college teams (in Germany), and when you want to be a pro in Germany, you have no time to go to college,” said Akar. “I didn’t want to take the risk and not have anything if (soccer) doesn’t work out.”

His work ethic, his tenacity, and his confidence seems to have spilled to an ODU team, picked to finish seventh in Conference USA, who ended up second in the regular season standings. “When you’re picked that low in the conference, nobody has any respect for you,” said Dawson.

The Monarchs (12-5-2, 9-2 Conference USA) will have another chance to earn more respect when they host North Carolina State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 7:00 pm on Thursday. “For us, the big advantage is playing at home in front of the home fans,” said Akar.

“They’ve (NC State) got the pedigree, and they’ll be a tough nut to crack for sure,” said Dawson.