Niagara Gazette — Senior Bryan Da Cruz lifted the Niagara men’s soccer team to a 1-0 overtime victory over top-seeded Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds in the MAAC tournament championship game on Saturday evening to earn the program’s first ever MAAC title and first berth into the NCAA tournament.
The win, which marked the first time the Purps have beaten the Greyhounds (13-6-1, 7-1-1) in MAAC tournament play, extended NU’s unbeaten streak to five games, improving its overall record to 13-1-4 and a 6-1-1 conference mark.
From beginning to end, neither team was able to gain the upper hand in possession, as both teams came out with a defensive mindset. After 45 minutes in the book, the score remained deadlocked at zero. The game was evenly matched at both ends, with Niagara getting seven shots compared to Loyola’s six.
Niagara came out aggressive, holding a nine to one advantage in fouls, giving the Greyhounds several quality scoring opportunities off set pieces, but NU keeper Brett Petricek was solid between the posts, making several key plays to keep the Greyhounds off the scoreboard.
Loyola had a quality opportunity off a direct kick in the 24th minute of play, as Dominic Marshall was fouled by Rene De Zorzi just outside the box. Marshall stepped up to take the shot, but the four-man wall served its purpose as the Purple Eagles blocked the rookie’s low offer.
The second 45 minutes of play was a mirror image of the first, as the shot count once again had NU up by a slim seven to six margin. The physical play continued as well with Niagara registering another nine fouls.
If the Purple Eagles wanted to notch their first championship win, they would have to do so in extra time once again, as the team was coming off an extra time effort in the semi-final match with Siena on Thursday.