By Dan Richeal
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – When the Niagara University Softball Team opens their season on Mar. 7 in Manoa, Hawaii it will fulfill a vision that Head Coach Larry Puzan had just five years ago when he took over the program.
“I felt that by this our programs development we would be ready to experience a tournament of this caliber,” Puzan explained.
In 2018, the Purple Eagles went 16-33 and 8-12 in MAAC play. The record may look bad but being from the northeast part of the country, teams like Niagara need to travel for most of their games, some of the teams they play on these trips are teams that are in bigger conferences like the PAC-12 and the SEC.
“The weather in the northeast is always a challenge and we are accustomed to being on the road,” Puzan said. “As for the teams we are playing, there is no way to know who you are going to face when entering the tournament. We are excited to face competition of this caliber in preparation for what we are planning will be regional competition in May.”
Heading out to Hawaii will be a great team building experience for the players and they will have the chance to play top tier college softball teams including the Alabama Crimson Tide, the California Golden Bears and the hosts, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. These games will be challenges, but playing teams like that will help the Purple Eagles once they get back to NU and start playing against MAAC opponents.
For the most part, this team is experienced, which should help the six incoming freshman to adapt both on the field and in the classroom. Puzan spoke very highly of both the freshman and the upper classmen.
“We are very pleased with what we saw from the freshman class this fall and the progress they have made so far this spring,” Puzan said. “They have the talent to have an impact on our team this season and will all have the opportunity to contribute. I am fortunate to have a very cohesive group of upper classmen that are great leaders and even better people. They have had a great impact on the development of the freshman both in the classroom and on the field.”
The Purple Eagles will open their season by taking on rival St. Bonaventure in Hawaii on March 7. The first home game for the Purple Eagles is on April 3, as they take on Youngstown State University.
Photo from Niagara Athletics.