They never meant to chase history. They only looked at each game, knowing they could do a heck of a lot better than their record showed last year.
They worked on finishing. They worked on mental toughness. They worked on focus.
And it just so happened that it all came together for the best start in Canisius men's soccer history. The Golden Griffins are 4-0-2, their best start since a four-game unbeaten streak in 1972 and 1976. In fact, the six-game unbeaten streak is the longest in their history at any point during the season.
Even more than that - the four wins already equal the Griffs' total from all last season when they went 4-14-1.
Statistically, the key is obvious. The Griffs are averaging 2.00 goals per game this season after managing just 0.79 last year. Gavin Falconer earned a spot on the National Team of the Week from College Soccer News and leads the team in scoring (4 goals, 3 assists).
What has fueled the increased offense and winning ways?
"The attitude has changed a lot for the team, just the belief now that we can win," said senior co-captain Regan Steele. "Last year we had a lot of close games but would give up late goals or not be able to finish. This year, we're just playing better as a team.
The mantra from coach Dermot McGrane, in his second year at Canisius, is "take one game at a time." It's a cliché for a reason - it works wonders with focus and the ability to finish a win.
"Last year we had 11 first-year players and the season can be a little overwhelming," McGrane said. "You don't know the teams you're playing or what it's like to play an intense game every time you step on the field. It can be tiring to look at the big picture and overwhelming for young players. They've gained experience and been able to break the season into manageable pieces."
A more experienced team isn't one that's just a year older. The Griffs worked in the offseason to get better both mentally and technically.
"We've done a lot of work where Coach challenges us mentally," Steele said. "He'll push us to our limits and make us come together as a team to get through. I guess psychologically or mentally we've gotten stronger, tougher and it helps in those close games. We did a lot of technical work with our finishing. In a lot of those close games we'd shoot the ball over the bar. I think we're getting a lot more shots on frame this year and when you get shots on target, you score more goals."
The Griffs play at the UNLV Nike Invitational, in Las Vegas, Nev., this weekend.
. Meanwhile, the Niagara men's soccer team is off to a 3-0-3 start. The Purple Eagles have been paced by senior goalkeeper Brett Petricek who was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week. He made 13 stops as Niagara played to 0-0 double-overtime ties with New Hampshire and Vermont.
. Medaille is off to a 4-0-0 start including an impressive 4-3 win at Oneonta State. a Division III Final Four team last year.
Buff State takes on No. 1
Coach speak says: When you want to be the best, you have to play the best. Also see variations that include getting better by playing the best and challenging yourself.
And what a challenge Buffalo State (1-1) football will have Saturday at three-time defending NCAA Division III champion Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Warhawks won their 46th straight when they opened the season with a 34-0 win over Washington University (Mo.). They allowed zero yards of offense in the first half. Canisius nabs titles
Canisius is dominating the Little Three rivalry this fall. The Griffs have won three Little Three titles - men's cross country, women's cross country and men's golf. The golf title came this past weekend - the third straight Little Three Golf championship for the Griffs. Canisius senior Michael Carrig (Timon-St. Jude) was medalist with a 4-under par 140 at Harvest Hill. It included a 67, Carrig's his career low.
Fall softball tournament
More local bragging rights are on the table this weekend at the 24th annual Canisius-Nan Harvey Fall Softball Classic at the Northtown Center in Amherst. The Big 4 will compete in a round-robin while Alfred State, ECC, Jamestown-Olean, Niagara CCC, Mercyhurst-North East and Monroe CC will play in a junior college event. Games begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with the championships starting at noon on Sunday.
UB cross country ranked
The University at Buffalo hosts its annual UB Stampede Invitational cross country meet on Saturday at Beaver Island State Park. The men's race begins at noon with the women at 12:45. Among the schools in the field are Niagara, Akron, Bowling Green, Robert Morris and Colgate. The Bulls' men's team was ranked 12th in the latest USTFCCCA Northeast Regional poll.