CLINTON, N.Y. -- Sophomore Beaufils Kimpolo-Pene scored his first career goal and senior Nate Merchant tallied the game-winner in a 2-1 victory for the Bates men's soccer team at Hamilton Saturday afternoon.
"Hamilton is a very good team; they were NESCAC finalists last year," Bates head coach Stewart Flaherty said. "To go out there in our first live game, and to have the defensive shape that we've been trying to have, and to have long periods of the game where we were passing and receiving with such quality after a week and a half of practice is very encouraging."
The Bobcats (1-0, 1-0 NESCAC) survived a flurry of shots from the Continentals (0-1-1, 0-1 NESCAC) late in the second half to hold on for the victory. Hamilton accumulated 23 shots to Bates' 14 on the afternoon. Junior goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro (Belmont, Mass.) made nine saves between the pipes for Bates, two shy of his career high.
With the score tied at one late in the first half, junior Drew Munoz (Dallas, Texas) threw the ball in toward the left wing. Sophomore Peder Bakken (Seattle, Wash.) headed the ball toward the middle of the box and Merchant (Los Angeles, Calif.) beat the Hamilton keeper to the ball, heading it over everyone and into the back of the net. Merchant watched the ball go in while lying on the ground after colliding with the keeper.
"I was a little bit dazed because I kind of got the wind knocked out of me," Merchant said. "I saw the keeper swipe at it but he missed it, and we celebrated!"
Hamilton tallied 14 corner kicks, nine in the second half, but the Bobcat defense refused to surrender the lead Merchant gave them in the 43rd minute.
"It came down to the wire at the end," Merchant said. "I was on the sideline freaking out but Robbie and the defense got it done."
Kimpolo-Pene (Bronx, N.Y.) put the Bobcats up 1-0 in the 15th minute of action.
Senior Justin Yacovino (North Bergen, N.J.) attacked the end line from the left side and delivered a cross that deflected off a Hamilton defender right to Bakken. He headed the ball to Kimpolo-Pene who headed the ball into the top right corner of the net past the diving Continental keeper.
The goal is the first of Kimpolo-Pene's career after he played exclusively on defense as a first-year.
"I love it," Kimpolo-Pene said with a grin after the game. "I love scoring and being a top option on offense for the team."
Hamilton got the equalizer in the 21st minute when Eli Lichtman connected with Jefri Schmidt for his first goal of the young season.
After Merchant gave the Bobcats a 2-1 edge, the defense stepped up despite getting Hamilton's best effort down the stretch.
Bates is back in action Wednesday when the Bobcats host the University of New England at Garcelon Field. The match is set for 8:00 p.m.