Merck leads field hockey in near comeback at Williams

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The Bates field hockey team was tested in its season opener Saturday at Williams, nearly coming back from a 3-1 deficit before settling for a 3-2 defeat to the Ephs.

First-year Annnie VanWagenen scored all three goals in her debut for the Ephs (1-0), who avenged their 2011 season opener, a 1-0 defeat at Bates.

Bates junior Polly Merck (Beverly Farms, Mass.) scored a game-tying goal and assisted on Bates' other score, a tally by first-year Shannon Beaton (West Newbury, Mass.).

Williams took a 1-0 lead into intermission after VanWagenen scored on an assist from Caitlin Conlon with 10:09 left to play in a defense-dominated first half. Bates junior goalkeeper Becca Otley (Cumberland, Maine) stopped five shots on net in the half, as Bates weathered a 10-3 deficit in shots attempted.

The Ephs carried a 1-0 lead until 38:57, when Bates' Merck found the back of the net, knotting the game at 1-1. Williams quickly gained some breathing room, however, with two unassisted shots by VanWagenen at 43:18 and 46:09, bringing the game to 3-1. But Merck found Beaton at 55:09 to narrow the gap to 3-2. The Bobcats pressed hard on the Ephs' goal for the last moments of the game, calling two time-outs and keeping the ball on Williams' side, but were unable to tie the score.

Williams was credited with a 21-12 edge in shots taken, after an 11-9 second-half advantage. Penalty corners were 8-7 in the Ephs' favor.

Otley made 11 saves total, while Williams' Ariana Spiliotes had eight.

Bates has a non-conference date at Thomas College on Wednesday, Sept. 12, then hosts back-to-back NESCAC games next weekend, with Amherst coming to Campus Avenue Field on Sept. 15 at 11am (Video), and Trinity arriving on Sunday, Sept. 16 for another 11am start (Video).

BOX SCORE: Williams 3, Bates 2