Niagara Gazette — If the Purple Eagles want to soar, they have to first run with the Greyhounds.
That’s the message arriving with Thursday 7 p.m.’s conference opener for the undefeated Niagara men’s soccer team: the season’s undefeated start has already made history, but the road to being a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference power begins in earnest versus conference power Loyola.
The Greyhounds are the gold standard in the MAAC, with 16 titles appearances and 12 wins. Their last title came in 2009 when the Purple Eagles made a surprise run to the final only to lose in kicks.
There’s a title feel in Western New York this season, however, given the hot starts for both Niagara and cross-bridge rival Canisius. Purple Eagles head coach Chase Brooks knows he can build on not only this year’s unbeaten beginning, but the quick success of his rookie MAAC campaign, where he went 4-2-3 including a tie at Loyola.
“Having seen it for a year, I’m still figuring out the style of the conference as a whole,” Brooks said. “It’s a more defensive-minded conference... a bit of size who are going to sit on you and force you to try and break them down.”
Now in Season Two of the Brooks regime, Niagara can become the team that pushes their game on the opposition. The Purple Eagles first look as to whether they match up with the MAAC’s “Big Three” of Iona, Loyola and Fairfield is a big one.
An international approach is helping Niagara get their proverbial feet under them. Brooks has seen strength from a Swedish midfielder, an American back and keeper plus Canadian and English strikers.
While Barrie, Ont. forward Bryan Da Cruz and towering English forward Callum Wilmott have scored the bulk of the goals for the Purple Eagles, it’s the calm midfield play of Swede middie Jacob Ohlin that has served to arrange calm in the center of the park. B