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NIAGARA WOMEN OFF TO NCAAS AFTER TENNIS TITLE

Revenge can be a powerful motivator.

Just ask the Niagara women's tennis team.

Two weeks ago, the Purple Eagles lost to Marist, snapping a 28-match winning streak in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season play.

Sunday, Niagara avenged the loss with a 4-2 win over Marist in Jersey City, N.J., to capture its second MAAC title in three years.

With the win the Purple Eagles advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

"We talked and talked to the team about how a turnaround is possible," Niagara coach Paul Calkins said. "They started believing it, and they were determined. They worked really hard the last two weeks. They dedicated themselves, and they were not going to be denied."

The Purple Eagles opened with two doubles wins to earn the doubles point but fell behind, 2-1, when Marist won the first two singles matches. Then came the five-minute span when three Niagara singles players closed out wins to seal the conference title.

Senior Mariam Al-Shikarchy was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Performer. In her singles match against Yana Tikhouko, Al-Shikarchy won the first set, 6-1, but fell behind, 6-5, in the second set. With Tikhouko serving for the set, Al-Shikarchy earned the break to force a tiebreak, which she won, 7-5.

Though success has been the norm for the program in recent years, this season was slow in developing for Niagara. The team started the fall season 0-3 and did not reach an overall .500 record until defeating St. Bonaventure on March 30.

"We finished out the last three weeks 8-1 with our only loss to Marist. We had that strong finish you want in any college sport," Calkins said. "We focused on three things this year. First, always believe in yourself. Second, expect adversity. Third, allow yourself time and be resilient enough to come back. We had to keep them focused, and by the end of the season they believed they could do it."

The 64-team NCAA bracket will be announced May 4 with first- and second-round play scheduled for May 13-15 at 16 sites.

SOFTBALL: St. Bonaventure moved a step closer to earning its first Atlantic 10 playoff berth after sweeping Rhode Island, 8-5 and 3-0. Christine Keleher (Tonawanda) took both wins for Bona (12-17, 8-2 A-10), allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out seven batters over 14 innings. Her shutout in the second game was her fourth of the season. . . . Niagara had its losing streak extended to six games with losses of 2-0 and 3-1 at Fairfield. Nicole Sum and Shannon Mongalise each had two hits for the Purple Eagles (9-21, 1-7 MAAC). . . . Canisius (12-12, 5-3 MAAC) had its seven-game winning streak come to an end with two losses at Iona. Andrea Bunton had 15 strikeouts in a 4-1 loss while Jessica Martin tied the school's single-season home run record with her ninth of the year in a 3-1 loss.

BASEBALL: Rhode Island swept a doubleheader against St. Bonaventure with wins of 9-0 and 6-5. In the nightcap, T.J. Pennino had a two-run homer while Jake New tripled in two runs for the Bonnies (18-20, 4-11 A-10). . . . Niagara (13-19, 7-5 MAAC) picked up a split at Fairfield. James Avery gave up two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out eight in a 6-2 win. Fairfield won the nightcap, 6-5. . . . Matt Mazurek (Silver Creek) singled in two runs for Canisius (7-23, 4-9 MAAC) in a 13-8 loss at Siena. In the nightcap, Kevin Smith had two hits in a 4-3 loss.

WOMEN'S LACROSSE: Erica Nasca (Hamburg) scored three goals for Canisius in a 14-6 loss at Siena. The Griffs (7-6, 2-3 MAAC) were outshot, 34-15. . . . Niagara lost its final game of the season, 25-12, at Le Moyne. The 25 goals were the most surrendered in a single game in Niagara's 10-year history. Lindsay Hamann and Emma-Lee Harrison each scored three goals for the Purple Eagles (5-7, 1-6 MAAC). . . . Temple defeated St. Bonaventure, 12-6. Megan Murphy and Katie Hurley each scored twice for the Bonnies (9-5, 1-5 A-10).

GOLF: Niagara finished fourth and Canisius placed seventh in the nine-team field at the MAAC Championships at Disney's Magnolia Course in Orlando, Fla. For the Purple Eagles, Chris Agostinelli and Chris Hart each tied for 10th overall as both shot 11-over-par, three-round totals of 227. Rob Krajewski (Williamsville South) led the Griffs, finishing tied for 15th with a 231.

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