NIAGARA UNIV., N.Y. – A header from sophomore defender Michael Hanton in overtime lifted the Niagara men's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over the Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash on Friday evening at Niagara Field.
After 90 minutes of end-to-end action and the game tied at one apiece, senior forward Bryan Da Cruz sent in a cornerkick that connected with Hanton for his first goal of the season. The win extended the Purple Eagles (5-0-3) unbeaten streak to nine games.
"Saint Francis did a fantastic job today," head coach Chase Brooks said. "We were very fortunate to get our goal in the first half against the run of play. Fair enough to St. Francis for scoring right before half time which was nothing less than they deserved. We made a few adjustments during halftime to figure some things out defensively and it started to pay off for us. The guys worked harder and they started to believe. We talk to the guys all the time about finding ways to win even when you're not playing your best and that's exactly what we did."
The non-conference matchup began on a physical note as both teams combined for two yellowcards and 24 fouls in the opening half. Sophomore Callum Willmott kick started the scoring 14 minutes into the contest. Defender Rene De Zorzi saw his header off a corner from Da Cruz ping off the lower right post, but Willmott pounced on the rebound to earn his fourth tally of the season.
The Red Flash (2-3-2) evened the game at one with less than two minutes remaining in the opening half. Sophomore Bryan Causey picked up a loose ball in the box off a Nick Kolarac direct that he ripped past senior keeper Brett Petricek. The teams headed into the second half with SFU holding a 13-7 shot advantage.
Both teams came out strong after half, but neither team could find the back of the net to gain the upper advantage. Petricek was solid in net for the Purple Eagles, making five of his seven saves in the second 45 minutes of play.
"The guys are starting to step up for us," Brooks added. "Ryan Merrifield got his first minutes of the season tonight and he did well. We've got tremendous depth on this team and that makes training every day fun and competitive and makes each game a bit of a headache for me because it's make it tough for me to find the right 11 to get it done. I enjoy those types of headaches. I'm really happy for the boys and we'll focus on St. Bonaventure now and finishing out the non-conference schedule."
Niagara travels to St. Bonaventure this Sunday, Sept 23 to battle the Bonnies at 1 p.m.