Abbey hands Bulldogs 1st loss

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Barton College came into Saturday’s NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas opener in men’s soccer with a head of steam, having knocked off nationally No. 16-ranked District of Columbia on Wednesday for the Bulldogs’ second win to start the season.

Belmont Abbey defused whatever momentum the Bulldogs brought onto the field at Barton Outdoor Athletic Complex with a pair of quick goals to open the match and held Barton at bay for a 3-0 victory. It was the first victory after two losses for the Crusaders, also playing their conference opener.

“We were really disappointed on how we started the game mentally,” Bulldogs head coach Ian McMichael said. “We gave up two early goals in the opening seven minutes that were really just a lack of focus and we just weren’t sharp mentally. And that’s disappointing and we must improve on that for sure.”

Belmont Abbey had just two corner kicks in the match but capitalized off both of them. Crusaders senior midfielder Nando Morales put his head on a clear attempt by Barton after an Abbey corner and the ball went into the net just 3 minutes, 16 seconds into the match. A little more than four minutes later, Morales served up a ball on a corner that freshman Sander Herlofsen headed past Barton junior goalkeeper Francisco Noguera for a 2-0 lead on the stunned Bulldogs.

That margin didn’t last long in the second half as another Abbey freshman, Adam Lindskog, finished a cross from senior Mark Trompeter for what would be the game’s final goal.

Barton certainly had its opportunities, matching Abbey’s shot output with 14. Bulldogs sophomore midfielder Pol Monells led the shot brigade, cranking five with three being on frame.

The Bulldogs just didn’t muster enough of a sustained attack to keep the physical Crusaders back-pedaling. Abbey keeper Ben Knust did his job, garnering seven saves in posting his first shutout of the season. Noguera finished with five stops for Barton.

While the Bulldogs were picked to finish ninth out of 11 teams in Conference Carolinas (Abbey was voted fourth), Barton is looking better than the team that went 1-8-1 in league matches and 5-12-1 overall in McMichael’s first season in 2017. Still, the veteran coach reminds that his player need to maintain, if not hone their focus as the conference skirmishes approach.

“We need to have an identity that’s blue collar and mentally strong,” he said. “We certainly have a lot of talented players but, unfortunately today, we weren’t able to display it. But give Belmont Abbey a lot of credit. I thought they were extremely well coached. We were outcoached today and they have some talent, so we will learn from today and get better. But our league will be challenge every match.”

Weather permitting, Barton is slated to play a non conference match Wednesday at USC Aiken before returning home next Saturday for a league game against Southern Wesleyan.