Kings Point, NY – The USMMA men's soccer team had its back to the wall for the majority of Wednesday night but Dan Weldon (Holland Township, NJ) deposited a game winner in the 97th minute to lift the Mariners to a 1-0 conference win against Drew. Merchant Marine was playing its first game in over three weeks but was able to secure three points in the Landmark Conference standings. Gary Poulin (Hauppauge, NY) had a stellar night in goal, recording 12 saves to earn the shutout.
"Coach Fitzgerald, Coach Banks and I are ecstatic with the effort our team put in tonight," said Head Coach Michael Smolens. "After not playing a match since September 27 and having to play a quality team like Drew, our players showed a tremendous fortitude in coming up with this win. We are excited about the win and the team is looking forward to the challenges which lie ahead in this condensed season."
Drew (9-4-3, 1-2-2 Landmark) had the first chance of the evening as Matthew Gregnano got off two shots on a Rangers fast break, but Poulin came up with back-to-back saves for USMMA. The Mariners best opportunity of the first half came on a Nick Vogel (Mechanicsburg, PA) free kick from 20 yards out that would sail over the crossbar. Poulin made six saves for USMMA while the Mariners were unable to register a shot on goal in the first half.
Merchant Marine (5-5-1, 2-1-0 Landmark) almost posted the first goal with 18 minutes remaining in regulation but Alex Palermo-Re (Manassas, VA) had his long distance shot just knocked over the cross bar by the Rangers goaltender. Two minutes later it was Drew who appeared to notch the breakthrough on an effort from RJ Voorman that beat Poulin. However, Abboss Rezaie (Plano, TX) was on the line to come up with the defense save and keep the contest scoreless.
Gavin Yingling (Salisbury, MD) was almost the overtime hero as his bicycle kick attempt beat the goalie but was also denied thanks to a defensive save by the Rangers' back line. The ensuing corner kick would result in the game winner as Brennan Becker (Weston, FL) swung in a cross for Tanner Nestler (Asheville, NC). Nestler's header hit the cross bar and fell at the feet of Weldon, who slotted home his fourth goal of the year and started the Mariners celebration.
Merchant Marine currently sits tied for fourth place in the Landmark Conference standings with more games remaining on its schedule than anyone else. USMMA returns to action Saturday afternoon for a 12:00 pm kick-off on senior day at Brooks Stadium against Moravian.