Published September 23. 2012 4:00AM
New London - After what he described as Mitchell College's worst half of the season, coach Dean Roberts pleaded for someone to make a big play.
Not one, but two Mariners responded.
Sophomore Jason Kirby polished off a breakaway with a brilliant finish late in the second half and freshman Michael Gallimore literally rose to the occasion, heading home the game winner with one minute, 41 seconds left in the second sudden death overtime period.
Their clutch strikes propelled Mitchell past Daniel Webster College, 2-1, in a New England Collegiate Conference men's soccer opener.
"Good teams find a way to win, and we found a way to win," Roberts said. "We brushed off the first half and played better the second half."
The Mariners (3-2, 1-0) needed a makeover before the second half. They played with a dull edge for the first 45 minutes and mustered just two of their 24 shots overall. Daniel Webster (1-5-2, 0-1) scored on its only attempt.
Daniel Webster sophomore Joey Morgan intercepted a poor clearing pass and fired in a beautiful arcing shot in the far corner from about 20 yards out for a 1-0 lead with just over seven minutes gone.
"I don't think we took them lightly," Roberts said. "They did a good job of making it simple. We were making it too hard for ourselves."
A more determined and disciplined Mitchell took the field in the second half.
The Mariners thoroughly controlled play, made better decisions and pushed for the equalizer.
It took awhile to break through, as Daniel Webster packed it in on defense, creating few openings. Kirby rattled a rising shot off the crossbar.
The game-tying goal came in transition. Sophomore Taylor Surette attacked up the middle from his midfield spot and fed a wide open Kirby who made a nice run on the left side. Kirby beat goalie Sean Hamilton from close range to tie the game with 5:36 left.
The Mariners nearly scored again, but had to settle for overtime. They continued to push hard for the win.
"We wouldn't have been happy with the tie because we had such an advantage in the second half," Roberts said.
Extended pressure finally paid off. On a corner kick, Frank Williams, a sophomore from Westerly, slipped a short pass to senior Michael Berthiaume who sent a cross into the box.
Gallimore used his 6-foot-6 frame to rise above the crowd and hit a perfectly placed header into the far left corner for his first career goal.
"That's my job, to crash in and get the headers," Gallimore said. "It felt good. I didn't expect it, obviously."
Prior to Saturday, Mitchell played a difficult stretch, going 1-2 on the road against Springfield, Eastern Connecticut and Western Connecticut.
Roberts feels good about his team, especially sophomore goalie Ramazan Sinani.
"I like the makeup of our group," Roberts said. "We have as good a goalkeeper as there is in the region. We have a lot of good pieces. We have people that can score goals and have people of quality and character.
"With all those things, we think we should challenge for the league."