The men’s soccer team returned to winning ways Saturday at home against Niagara University (1-4) with a 5-1 victory. The Bears (2-1) were clinical offensively with five different goalscorers, including Paul Elliott ’23, Dennis Pyetsukh ’22, Zakary Lawal ’23 and Kojo Dadzie ’24, who each notched their first career goals. Veteran forward Alex Mina ’22 capped Bruno’s offensive breakout with his first goal since Sept. 18, 2019. Niagara avoided a shutout with a late set piece goal, but it was too little, too late for the Purple Eagles. Brown’s four-goal margin of victory was its largest since a 5-0 victory over Marist University in 2013.
After a heartbreaking loss Wednesday to Bryant University, in which the Bears led 2-0 but fell 4-2 in their home opener, Brown was eager to put on a better showing for its home fans. The Bruno faithful did not need to wait long to see a scoring outburst. In the seventh minute against Niagara, captain Will Crain ’22 launched a corner kick into the penalty box, which was headed out by the Niagara defense. But Elliott corralled the rebound and fired a shot into the right corner of the goal, giving Brown the 1-0 lead.
The team “is a young group. We were maybe a bit too excited about the home opener,” said Head Coach Patrick Laughlin. “It’s good to see them adapting and learning so quickly.”
Bruno’s defense held firm throughout the remainder of a rough and tumble first half. The only serious threat posed by the Purple Eagles’ attack came when Niagara’s Jelldrik Dallman attempted a close-range header, but he sent the ball just left of the goalpost. Brown extended its lead with a lightning-quick counter attack from Pyetsukh, who dribbled around Niagara’s goalkeeper to set himself up for an easy tap-in goal.
“It felt amazing (to get my first collegiate goal),” Pyetsukh said. “Just glad to help the team and help us progress and get our first home win.”
Midfielder Derek Waleffe ’22, who missed Wednesday’s game against Bryant with an injury, returned against Niagara and assisted Pyetsukh’s goal. “We need (Waleffe) … he provides us a lot of calmness, an ability to carry the ball and an ability to attack,” Laughlin said.
A crafty steal by Crain set up another Bears counter attack, which allowed Lawal to launch a screamer from the right side of the penalty box into the bottom left corner of the goal, giving Bruno a 3-0 lead taken into halftime. The dominant first half from the Bears was the first time they had scored three goals in one half since the 2013 win over Marist, when Brown notched four goals in the first 45 minutes of the match.
“We switched up how our midfield was looking and we tactically made a couple changes,” Crain said. “We knew Niagara had those wide open wings, so we exploited them there on the counter attack.”
Brown once again burst out of the gates in the second half. Dadzie engineered an elusive run through the penalty box before sending the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal, giving Bruno a 4-0 advantage. Mina scored a goal off of a throw-in less than five minutes later to extend the lead to a commanding five goals.
Niagara increased its offensive pressure after going down 5-0, but it was too late for a Purple Eagles comeback. Niagara hit a shot off the goalpost before finally breaking through in the 66th minute, as Dallman scored off a corner kick. Unlike in Wednesday’s loss to Bryant, the Bears were able to easily hang on to their lead and walk away with a comfortable victory.
Brown will head on the road Wednesday for a battle with in-state rival University of Rhode Island.
“Against URI, it’s going to be a fight because it’s a rivalry,” Crain said. “It’s going to be a mental game for 90 minutes.”