By Daniel Cermak/NPSL.com
The University of Akron’s Skye Harter and Ezana Kahsay both had major contributions to helping the Zips reach the College Cup final for the first time since 2010. Though Akron fell 1-0 to Maryland, the pair are taking the experience as a positive as they continue their careers.
“Skye and Ezana were both key to our run to the final on and off the field,” University of Akron head coach Jared Embick said. “Skye was our capitan for the final and Ezana was our heart and soul behinds the scenes.”
Kahsay ends his Akron career with an incredible three College Cup appearances in four years. Kahsay spent five seasons at Akron, but did not appear in a match in 2014. From 2015-18, the forward from Eritrea appeared in 80 matches, scoring 10 goals and notching 10 assists, all of which came in his final three seasons. Though the result of the final was disappointing, Kahsay is proud of himself for making three College Cups, and hopes the players still there can continue his legacy by bringing Akron a second star.
“Well done to Maryland, and for us, the seniors, it was heartbreaking, but there’s more ahead for us,” Kahsay said. “And we’re just happy that we can bring the other guys and show them what it’s like to go the College Cup, and we can show them that ‘hey that’s the standard we hold here.’”
Before Kahsay’s 2017 season with Akron he spent the summer with Erie Commodores FC, where he helped his squad to an East Conference championship. Additionally, Kahsay filled up the stat sheet for Erie in 2017, scoring six goals in his first five games with the Commodores. Overall, Kahsay had a great experience with the club and the coaching staff helped prepare him for the rigors of the Akron season.
“It was extremely helpful the rest of the players were out of college and looking to play professionally and they really welcomed us,” Kahsay said. “It was a diverse group of players and that really helped prepare us for multiple things, they worked with us (Kahsay and former Akron defender Shane Wiedt) every day; they knew we were from Akron so they really helped keep us get ready for what was to come in Akron.”
Commodores owner John Melody was thoroughly impressed with Kahsay’s flexibility as a player.
“He loves to play and he his very willing to switch positions and play different positions. He’s a very dynamic player, he’s very athletic, and overall he was good to have on the team.”
Kahsay is currently looking for professional opportunities to play soccer whether that be here in the U.S. or abroad.
“Looking primarily in the U.S., but if another opportunity arises I would go for that too.”
Embick believes Kahsay has the tools to make an impact on any team he is on.
“Ezana was a person who brought energy and determination to the field. Ezana’s strength as a forward made him very difficult player to defend and he made many key contributions to our season.”
Harter was also on the team during the 2015, 2017, and 2018 College Cup appearances. Additionally, Harter starred in leading his NPSL squad to the league’s national championship in 2016. Harter will also be returning for the 2019 college season as a redshirt senior. Harter was proud of the Zips’ run to the College Cup final in 2018, especially after the team struggled in the regular season.
“I experienced a unity with a team closer and different from anything I’ve been a part of,” Harter said. “Coming together when many doubted us and it felt like we only had each other made it very special.”
Not only did Harter help captain the Zips to the final, he “led from the front” by scoring an incredible dipped, curved free kick in the College Cup semi-final against Michigan State and former NPSL goalkeeper and FC Cincinnati first-round pick Jimmy Hague.
“It was a special moment for me, something I don’t take for granted,” Harter said.“It was really an out of body experience.”
Harter’s impact on Akron’s season was not lost on Embick.
“Skye was crucial to our set up as he controlled the play and really set the tempo for our team.”
Harter’s NPSL head coach Carter Poe, currently the men’s soccer head coach at the University of Mount Union, echoed Embick’s sentiments.
“[Harter]’s a flair player who is technical, clever, and very creative,” Poe said. “He’s a special player and will be a pro if he wants to be.”
Wherever these two Akron and NPSL standouts end up, the opportunity to reach a College Cup final was a life-changing one for Harter and Kahsay.
Photo Credit: Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com