The Niagara men’s soccer team makes its NCAA Tournament debut at 7 tonight against Michigan at the U-M Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The men’s soccer tournament is single elimination and the winner faces No. 5 Akron in the second round.
Senior Bryan Da Cruz lifted the Purple Eagles to a 1-0 double overtime victory over top-seeded Loyola (Md.) in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament final to earn their first conference title and first berth in the NCAAs in the 43-year history of the program.
Niagara is riding a five-game winning streak, with four of those victories coming in extra time. It’s the longest win streak of the season for the Purple Eagles, who won four straight from Sept. 14-Oct. 5.
The Purple Eagles have a formidable defense. The team tied the school record with seven shutouts. The defense is anchored by senior defender Rene De Zorzi and senior goalkeeper Brett Petricek.
De Zorzi earned MAAC Defensive Player of the Year honors while Petricek was the conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year.
Three Purple Eagles have double-digit point totals for the season, led by Callum Willmott with eight goals and three assists.
The Wolverines (10-9-1, 3-2-1 Big Ten) enter the NCAAs as an at-large team and are 5-1 in their last six matches, with the most recent loss coming in the Big Ten Tournament finals, against rival Michigan State, 2-1, in overtime.
This is the fifth time Michigan has been invited to the NCAAs, and the second time in three seasons. The Wolverines are 7-4 in the tournament, including a perfect 3-0 mark in the first round.
Michigan is 7-3-1 at U-M Soccer Stadium this season. The Wolverines’ top offensive threats are Tyler Arnone (5 goals, 4 assists, 14 points) and Fabio Pereira (3-8-14).