NIAGARA UNIV., N.Y. – Head coach Eric Barnes locked up his first win behind the bench as the Niagara men's soccer team dropped UMass Lowell 4-1 behind a five-point night from rookie Nicholas Watson on Friday afternoon at Niagara Field.
Watson tallied the game winner off a penalty kick marker in the opening half and added a trio of assists to give the Purps (1-2-0) their first win of the season. Julian Ekeze, Callum Willmott and Coletun Long each added a goal, while William Banahene earned his first victory as a Purple Eagle with four stops.
"The team came out very strong from the opening kickoff," said Barnes. "It was a great team effort highlighted by Nicky Watson's five point performance. This is exactly what we needed before heading off on a tough four game road trip."
Niagara jumped out to an early 2-0 lead to begin the non-conference matchup against the River Hawks (0-3-0) off goals from Ekeze and Watson. Ekeze began the scoring two minutes into the contest with a blistering shot outside the 18-yard box that beat UMass Lowell goalkeeper Chris Maierle high.
In the fifth minute of play, Tim Magnusson was tripped up in the River Hawks' box to give the Purps the opportunity to extend their lead to two with a penalty shot. Watson stepped up to the line and tucked a left corner shot into the back of the goal.
Niagara continued to control the flow of play, not allowing UMass Lowell to sustain any offensive pressure, but the River Hawks were finally able to get on the scoreboard in the 19th minute off the foot of Homero Morais. Ekeze had an opportunity to regain the two-goal lead five minutes later with a 1-on-1 opportunity against Mierle, but his low shot went just wide of the post.
The teams went into halftime with Niagara holding a slim 7-5 edge in shots.
Niagara scored a pair of goals several minutes apart in the second half to pull ahead, 4-1 which was enough to put away the game. Willmott netted his first goal of the season in the 62nd minute with a header off a Watson direct kick. Three minutes later Watson notched his fifth point of the game with an assist off a cornerkick that connected with the head of Long for the rookie's first collegiate goal.
Niagara sets off on a four-game road trip, traveling first to Akron, Ohio for the Akron Tournament. Niagara will battle San Diego State on Friday, Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. and VCU on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 3:30 p.m.