#41 Niagara Men's Soccer 2013 Preview

Niagara Purple Eagles

Overall Rank: #40
Conference Rank: #1 MAAC
#41 Niagara Men's Soccer 2013 Preview
Niagara Team Page


It was a season to remember in western New York, which is an area not usually known for being a soccer hotbed. Niagara had a Midas touch in 2012, coming through with a 12-game unbeaten streak to start the season, a first-ever Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship and a first-ever trip to the NCAA Division I tournament. Niagara’s stay in the tournament proved brief; although the Purple Eagles could boast a lead over Michigan in the first 60 minutes of their first-round showdown, three Wolverine goals in the second half made quick work of Niagara. Only one of the four MAAC all-tournament selections is back from last year’s successful squad, but the old saying about success breeding more success should apply here. There is no reason to believe Niagara can’t dominate the MAAC one more time.

2012 Record: 13-2-4, 5-1-1
2012 Postseason: NCAA tournament (lost in first round to Michigan, 3-1)
Coach: Eric Barnes

The good news for Niagara centers around the return of junior Callum Willmott, who had eight goals and three assists last year for 19 points. This is especially important because the scoring drops off pretty quickly after that. The next highest scorer, Ken Cooper, only had four points off two goals and two assists, so expect Willmott to be leaned on heavily until new scorers are established early on. A large influx of freshmen and sophomores should help Niagara establish some depth to offset the two seniors on the squad. Niagara was unbeatable at home (5-0-1 record) and at neutral sites (2-0-2), so if the Purple Eagles can come anywhere close to that in 2013 it should be another solid season.

Remember Bryan Da Cruz, Rene De Zorzi and Darren Cooper from last year’s historic squad? All three are gone, taking with them 13 goals and 13 assists that may be very hard to replace at first. What will be even harder to replace is the solid play of keeper Brett Petricek, whose 85.1 percent success rate in net ranked sixth among all NCAA Division I keepers. There are four goalkeepers vying to replace Petricek in the net, and none of them saw action in net for Niagara a year ago. Having to find a new keeper is going to be very hard for Niagara. Opponents also got off 15 shots per game on average to Niagara’s 12.2. This suggests teams were a little faster to the ball, and with the combination of a new keeper and a new lineup that might be cause for concern.

Final Projection:
Niagara’s strong play last year may have helped the recruiting process along. Barnes has done a tremendous job in his two seasons at the helm, with a combined record of 22-6-9. That enabled Barnes to convince more players to give MAAC soccer a try, and 10 freshmen are in the lineup to help out. The nice thing about Niagara’s infusion of talent, which includes players like Texas goalkeeper Brendan Otman (Fort Worth) and North Carolina midfielder Nicholas Watson, is it will get a chance to ease in gradually. Niagara’s schedule really is not that difficult in the first half of the season, but it will give the team enough challenge to get ready for MAAC play in the second half of the season. The biggest risks will be from Siena and Iona, two of the other strong schools in the league, and those games come after nine other teams have gotten a chance at the Purple Eagles (Siena is the 10th game on the schedule and Iona is game number 14). A combination of easier non-conference play and another weaker MAAC schedule should spell another trip to the NCAA tournament. Whether a first-round exit repeats itself this season remains to be seen.

Projected Postseason: NCAA

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Callum Willmott, Junior, F, 8
Assists: Callum Willmott, Junior, F, 3
Shots: Callum Willmott, Junior, F, 34
Saves: None


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