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20th Anniversary of Niagara's MAAC Softball Championship to be celebrated May 5


NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- The Niagara University softball program is scheduled to honor the 1998 team on the 20th anniversary of its MAAC Tournament championship. Alumni from the championship squad are invited to take part in the festivities, which will take place throughout the day on Saturday, May 5.
"We look forward to welcoming this championship team back to Monteagle Ridge," said Director of Athletics Simon Gray. "Our athletics department is proud to celebrate their triumph during this anniversary year and also to recognize the success that the team members have enjoyed since graduating from Niagara University."
Prior to the Purple Eagles doubleheader against Fairfield, the 1998 team will be recognized in an on-field ceremony, including a ceremonial first pitch from Joni (Sontrop) Hoover, who finished that season ranked 21st in the country in strikeouts per seven innings (7.0).
"I am very proud and honored to have been a part of the Niagara Softball 1998 team," said Larry Puzan, current head coach and assistant coach with the '98 team. "They were an amazing group of women. What they were able to accomplish is truly a credit to their hard work and dedication to their sport and Niagara University. I am excited to see these Purple Eagles once again take the field at NU."
The 1998 Purple Eagles went 18-14 in the regular season, and defeated St. Peter's and Fairfield to reach the MAAC Championship against Canisius. Their 2-1 win over the Golden Griffins ended the rival's five-year run as conference champions. Lockport native and Starpoint High School graduate Angela Townsend was named the tournament MVP while Sontrop also earned all-tourney honors.
The MAAC champions met the Northeast Conference's tournament winners, Robert Morris, in a best-of-three series to determine who would earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The two split on the opening day, but the Purple Eagles triumphed in the decisive game three to become part of the 32-team NCAA tournament.
The Purple Eagles (22-19) bowed out after defeats to Hawaii and defending champion Arizona, but the legacy of the team was cemented and has lived on as the most successful season in program history. They remain the only team in program history to win the MAAC Tournament and make it to the NCAA Tournament.

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