All the other recruits were treated to a highlight video to draw them, but Will Meyer wasn’t allowed to view the reel of past successes for the University of Akron men’s soccer program.
Meyer, a 2016 Solon graduate, had just finished his fourth season as a goalkeeper at the University of Louisville, and he was on the hunt to explore his options for his final season of eligibility as a postgraduate. He redshirted his freshman year with the Cardinals.
But when Meyer was exploring the possibility of joining the Zips, Akron head coach Jared Embick and goalkeeper coach Ger Coppinger had to use other means to lure him in for a commitment to the 2020 fall campaign. Or at least that was part of the humor to bring him back to Northeast Ohio.
“The first thing that the goalkeeper coach said to me was that they usually show recruits a highlight video of Akron, of all their successes,” Meyer said. “And he was joking with me, because he said they weren’t going to show it to me because the final highlight was me getting a PK scored on from the sixth round of that shootout to send them to the College Cup.”
In his second season at Louisville, Meyer took over a starting role as a redshirt freshman and led the 2017 Cardinals to a 13-2-5 campaign with seven shutouts and an Elite Eight run in the Division I NCAA championship tournament.
In the quarterfinals match, nation No. 4-ranked Louisville hosted No. 5-ranked Akron. Between the posts, Meyer shut out the Zips through 110 minutes, but the match was still 0-0 through two overtimes and went into a shootout.
Meyer made two saves in the shootout, and the Cardinals led, 2-1, through the first three rounds of penalty kicks. But Akron tied it up, 3-3, and then went on to win it, 4-3, in the sixth round, with Niko De Vera scoring the winner against Meyer. De Vera now plays for the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer.
“So, (coach Coppinger) was joking when he said he wasn’t going to show me video,” Meyer said. “But both (Embick) and (Coppinger) said that they were very impressed by my performance in that game, and they even went as far as saying they wished they would have reached out earlier to me.”
Meyer ended up committing in January to play his final year of college soccer eligibility at Akron, in the Mid-American Conference.
During coach Embick’s tutelage with the Zips, including seven years at the helm and six as an assistant, Akron has posted the highest winning percentage in the nation with an overall record of 210-53-31, including 12 trips to the NCAA tournament and three appearances in the College Cup Final with a national title in 2010.
“I was just looking for somewhere I could play my last year, and coming back home was something that I always kind of envisioned,” Meyer said. “When I was a little kid, Akron was always the gold standard for college soccer. And, so, I thought when they reached out and I was made aware of their situation, it just seemed like the perfect fit – coming home, playing for a program I idolized my whole life.”
The Zips are coming off their first losing campaign (6-10-2) since going 9-10-0 in 1992, and they missed qualifying for the NCAA tournament after 12 straight bids.
Entering the 2020 campaign, Akron has parted ways with its starting goalkeeper and has three freshmen goalies on the roster, along with Meyer.
“So, they did have a need for a goalkeeper, and, hopefully, I’ll be able to fit that need,” Meyer said.
After Meyer led Louisville to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals in 2017, he lost his starting job with just four appearances in 2018 and did not see game action in 2019.
In 2017, Meyer recorded a 0.489-goals-against average, which stands as a single-season program record for the Louisville men’s soccer program. And his seven shutouts that campaign ranks eighth in the Cardinals’ single-season record book, only behind guys who had seven or more starts than he did in their respective campaigns.
“I had a great season. It was kind of a shame that, after such a good season that I put together, that the coaches didn’t carry on having faith in me for the next two years,” Meyer said. “But that kind of stuff happens. I mean, you see it all over sports. Joe Burrow didn’t get his chance at Ohio State. And you could go on and on about players who changed environments and excelled.
“But I think my success during that year was just out of the want to be successful and the want to show that I can do this at this high of a level.”
During his time at Solon, Meyer was a three-year starting goalkeeper for the Comets, recording 31 shutouts in 57 matches with a 30-11-16 mark, including two Division I district championships.
His senior season in 2015, Meyer was named a first-team all-Ohioan after recording 14 shutouts and stopping four of five penalty kicks during a shootout victory against Hudson in the district title game.
“Going to a program as high profile as Louisville, it was a huge jump,” Meyer said. “A lot of the players I played with at Louisville came from either the domestic academy system or they came from professional academies overseas. I think that the biggest takeaway was just seeing the habits and learning the game from players that had come from very successful backgrounds.”
After Meyer kept a clean sheet in seven of his 11 starts in 2017, helping to lead the Cardinals to a No. 4 ranking, he was no longer the favorite between the posts in 2018. He said there may have been some politics involved, but, whatever the case, the coaches no longer deemed him the goalie that the team needed.
Louisville went on to get upset, 2-1, against Michigan State in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament.
Nonetheless, Meyer said he felt he had an obligation to his team to stick it out and do everything he could to contribute. He just finished up his undergraduate classes this spring with a major in political science and a minor in Chinese, which he also studied at Solon.
“I feel that, even though I didn’t play these last two years, I’m a much better goalkeeper because of it,” Meyer said. “I continued to work hard, and I think that the adversity taught me more than just a lot of success would have. Now that I have failed, I feel like I’m much better set up to succeed.”
Set to play his final year of eligibility at Akron in the fall, Meyer said he thinks he can be a mentor to the younger goalies in the program and share his experience and knowledge with them.
With the Zips coming off that 6-10-2 campaign in 2019, after a NCAA national runner-up finish the previous year, Meyer said he knows they’ll be fired up for a rebound season in 2020.
During Meyer’s three years as a varsity starter at Solon, the Comets had a 7-3-7 rebuilding campaign between their two district title seasons.
“Last year kind of seems like a fluke for Akron,” Meyer said. “I mean, they were losing very close games, a lot of one-goal games, and then, if you look at their roster, there’s a bunch of players who were featured on their College Cup rosters of two and three years ago.
“So, the pieces are there. I think they just needed a few things to bring it together. So, I don’t doubt it at all that there’s enough talent on the roster to make another push for a national championship.”