MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Junior midfielder Komar Martinez-Paiz registered a three-point performance and freshman midfielder Mauricio Bailleres notched his first collegiate goal for the Wesleyan University men's soccer team on Saturday, as the Cardinals picked up their first NESCAC Conference win of 2017 with a 4-2 triumph over Bates at Jackson Field.
Cardinals 19th-year head coach Geoff Wheeler has been around the NESCAC for a long time, leading his group to 16 appearances in the conference tournament and the program's first-ever NESCAC title in 2005.
But, that first conference victory never gets old.
"The first win in the league is really difficult," Wheeler said. "I am really proud of the guys battling through under a little adversity and some frustration because we thought that we had the game in control, and suddenly we look up and it is tied. It was a great way to finish with a late goal that reflected the game itself."
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Bailleres tallied the game-winning mark for the Cardinals (5-1-0, 1-1-0 in NESCAC) in the 83rd minute, as he sent a line drive from outside the box into the left side of the net off a corner kick by freshman defender Sam Serxner – giving the hosts a 3-2 advantage.
"There is no question that training reflects the game and vice versa," Wheeler said. "Mauricio has been training at a high level, and so I cannot even say I am surprised. I am proud, but not surprised because he has really good qualities."
Martinez-Paiz, who has been outstanding in terms of organizing the Cardinals' offensive attack with nifty moves and passes in the open field, made sure the game was in safe hands, netting a goal from straight on during the 90th minute. The Pawtucket, R.I. native leads the squad in goals (two), assists (two) and points (six), with Wesleyan holding a stout 4-0 mark at home this fall.
"You always got to protect your house," Wheeler said. "Playing in front of your fans and your familiar area is something you got to count on and take a lot of pride in. These guys are doing a great job of that."
Senior captain Nick Jackson opened the scoring in the 16th minute, as he raced into the box and headed in a goal off an exceptional cross from the left side of the field by Martinez-Paiz. Jackson's last goal was during the 2016 season, when he netting the game winner during a 1-0 victory over Tufts in Medford, Mass.
The Bobcats (3-1-1, 1-1-0 in NESCAC), who came into this contest undefeated, answered in the 36th minute, with sophomore Antonio Heredia finding the back of the net for the first time this season on a shot from straight on through traffic.
The Cardinals took a 2-1 lead into halftime after applying pressure off a free kick by senior Taylor Chin in the 43rd minute, which led to a Bates' own goal. Sophomore Peder Bakken pulled the Bobcats even at 2-2 in the 55th minute, as he claimed his territory in the box and put the finishing touch on a free kick from the left side by junior Morgan Dewdney.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Senior goalkeeper Brian Harnett (4-1-0) earned his fourth victory of the season for Wesleyan with a two-save performance. Junior goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro (3-1-0) was tagged with the loss for Bates, despite making a game-high nine saves.
- The Cardinals outshot the Bobcats, 22-9, and led the shots-on-goal category, 13-4. The Cardinals took 13 corner kicks and the Bobcats only attempted one, while Bates was called for 14 fouls and Wesleyan was tagged with six.
- Martinez-Paiz posted a game-high seven shots, sending four on net, while sophomore midfielder Cameron Park finished with a trio of shots for the hosts. For the visitors, senior Nate Merchant led the charge with three shots.
- The Cardinals will face off against another NESCAC Conference rival on Tuesday, welcoming Tufts to Citrin Field for a 7:30 p.m. start. Next on the radar will be a 1:30 p.m. matchup at Hamilton on Saturday, Sept. 30, in Clinton, N.Y.