NEW LONDON, Conn. – In a battle for first place in the New England Collegiate Conference standings, the Mitchell College men's soccer team held on for a 3-2 victory over Lesley University on Wednesday afternoon at Alumni Field.
Mitchell twice held a two-goal lead in the second half, only to see Lesley cut the deficit in half each time. David Hernandez netted the eventual game-winning goal in the 78th minute, a score that put the Mariners on top 3-1. Nuno Pereira answered back for the Lynx with just over three minutes remaining in the contest, but time ran out on the visitors as they pushed for the equalizer.
Zavier Veliz and Andrew Storton also found the back of the net for the Mariners on the day. Mitchell improved to 6-8-1 overall and moved to 5-1-0 in league play. With a win in their final game of the season, the Mariners would clinch a home game and a first-round bye in the upcoming NECC Championship.
Lesley, which dropped to 8-8-1 overall (4-2-0 NECC), also received a goal from Wilton Zuo. The Lynx are also still in the running for a first-round bye and home game in the conference tournament.
The only goal of the first half came with seven minutes remaining in the period. Brayan Mora served up a ball from the right sideline that Veliz headed inside the right post for his second goal of the season.
The score remained 1-0 until the 61st minute when Storton buried his team-leading seventh goal of the year. Yianni Longinidis started the play with a long ball over the Lesley back line. Storton tracked the ball down and shielded his defender while deking the goalie for a clean look at the 2-0 lead.
The Lynx made it 2-1 in the 73rd minute on a beautiful shot from Zuo. He had possession in his offensive end on the left sideline but 30 yards out from goal. He launched a left-footed shot that ducked under the crossbar and just out of the reach of Mitchell keeper Seth Strader for his second tally of the season.
Mitchell made up the goal five minutes later as Wadlet Jean-Baptiste fed Hernandez for his second goal of the year. The insurance marker proved necessary as the Lynx pulled within one once again in the 87th minute on a goal by Pereira. The Mariners cleared away a corner kick to the top of the box, where Pereira was waiting to deposit his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
Lesley had a chance to equalize in the final seconds but couldn't produce a shot on goal. Strader finished with three saves while the Lynx got five from James Webb.
The day began with four teams tied atop the NECC men's soccer standings (Dean College, Elms College). The top two teams will earn the right to host a semifinals game in the NECC Championship on November 3.
Mitchell will close out regular season play at home against Newbury College on Saturday, October 28 at 1 p.m. Lesley returns to action at home against Southern Vermont College on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.