Merchant leads men's soccer to 3-1 win over Nor'easters

Senior Nate Merchant led the Bobcats to a 3-1 victory in a physical contest with the University of New England on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College) 

LEWISTON, Maine -- Senior Nate Merchant scored twice and dished out an assist to lead the Bates men's soccer team to a 3-1 victory over the University of New England Wednesday night on Garcelon Field. 

The Bobcats (2-0) scored the final three goals of the match after falling behind 1-0 in the first half. 

"To go down 1-0 in our home opener and to respond like that shows our team's character," Merchant said. "We have such a strong belief in ourselves." 

Merchant (Los Angeles, Calif.) scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 88th minute when sophomore Eric Opoku (Accra, Ghana) executed a nice one-touch pass and Merchant raced by his defender all the way to the net where he finished past the sliding UNE keeper.

A little more than a minute later, the Nor'easters got called for a foul and the Bobcats took advantage. Merchant received a pass that deflected off a UNE defender. Then he quickly fired a rocket into the back of the net for the finishing touch on an outstanding night. 

The Nor'easters (1-4) got on the board first after junior Ben Lyons (San Rafael, Calif.) received a yellow card, setting up a free kick for the visitors. Callum Heaslewood took the kick and fired a shot into the top left corner of the goal, putting UNE up 1-0 in the 31st minute.

Lyons redeemed himself just 28 seconds later. Merchant attacked on the far side of the field and delivered a perfect cross to Lyons. Lyons finished with ease for the equalizer from the right side of the net, tallying the second goal of his career. 

The Bobcats controlled most of the match, outshooting UNE by a count of 23-12. Opoku matched Merchant with a team-high six shots, consistently threatening the UNE defense with his quick cuts and dynamic playing style.

In the 21st minute, Opoku nearly made a remarkable shot from 20 yards out, hitting the crossbar on his attempt. 

In the 59th minute, senior Justin Yacovino (North Bergen, N.J.) narrowly missed what would have been a highlight reel goal with a bicycle kick that sailed just high of the net.

Sophomore midfielder Peder Bakken (Seattle, Wash.) continued his strong start to the year with five shots on the evening, helping Bates maintain control of the ball in the midfield. 

Junior goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro (Belmont, Mass.) made four saves between the pipes while UNE keeper Nathan Delesdernier tallied two saves of his own.

The Bobcats are back in action Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. when they take on Newbury College on the campus of Hellenic College.