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Bulldogs claim 3-2 thriller over Catawba

Barton opens season at Electric Supply Company Field

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A quick answer to adversity kicked the Barton College men’s soccer team to a victorious start to its 2019 season in its home debut on a humid but historic Saturday evening.

Thirty-six seconds after Catawba College of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Conference had erased a 2-0 deficit with the equalizer, the Bulldogs of third-year head coach Ian McMichael won a scrum in front of the Catawba goal and netted the clincher to an entertaining 3-2 outcome in a spirited, physical nonconference fray.

The Division II rivals engaged in the first men’s soccer match to be played at Barton’s gorgeous Electric Supply Company Field just after the Barton women dispatched Coker College 3-0. A couple more matches could be played at the future home of Barton Bulldogs football this season.

Both teams were opening their respective seasons in a match rescheduled from Thursday. The Bulldogs were originally scheduled to host North Carolina Wesleyan on Saturday and the status of that match is to be determined.

With 11 minutes remaining and Barton clinging to a 2-1 lead, euphoria instantly turned into disbelief for the Bulldogs of Conference Carolinas.

The Indians needed to convert a penalty kick to forge a 2-2 tie. Catawba senior Hunter Faust’s blast was blocked by senior Barton goalkeeper Francisco Noguera. But a ball struck with plenty of pace ricocheted to Catawba freshman Simone Trenton, who zinged an accurate shot.

The Bulldogs returned the shock treatment, promptly working the ball to the vicinity of the Catawba goal. In the scrum, Bulldogs freshman Omar Aboutaleb got off a shot that sophomore Indians goalkeeper Luc Dennisselle turned away. However, Barton freshman David Brietenbach maneuvered into position to tap in the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes, 21 seconds remaining.

“A cross was coming in,” Brietenbach reviewed. “No. 32 (Aboutaleb) touched it with his knee and took a shot. The goalkeeper saved it, but I slid a little to get it and tapped it in.”

Observed McMichael: “Give Catawba credit; they were down two goals and found a way to make it a competitive match. They got the equalizer. But I was really proud of our team for its ability to come back with a goal pretty quick.”

“Just lost focus — as simple as that,” Catawba head coach Ken Hassler said of Barton’s winning goal. “They say the most dangerous time is immediately after a goal is scored. It showed today.”

The Bulldogs survived 19 fouls, four yellow cards and a cramp-filled second half. The Indians were also assessed four yellow cards and wound up with 12 fouls.

“It’s partly because the Europeans are getting used to the humidity here,” McMichael explained the Bulldogs’ woes with cramps, “and our fitness needs to certainly improve. In the second half, injuries changed a few things.”

Barton forged a 2-0 halftime lead on a pair of niftily executed plays. In the 11th minute, freshman Jonas Svavarsson, crashing in from the right, took a center pass from sophomore Ludovic Rocha and finished. About 12 minutes later, junior Ruben Mancio cranked a shot that deflected off the keeper. Freshman Throstur Jonasson was on the spot to finish.

In the meantime, Noguera and his defensive cast of Mark Santes, a senior from Hunt High; freshman Mattias Lindskoug, sophomore Luis Velasco, freshman Halldor Thorsteinsson and senior Lorran Antoneilli repelled attempts from the Indians’ Michael Nuguse, a sophomore, and Trentin.

Catawba goals resulted from a free kick and a penalty kick. Junior Keenan Tucker drilled in the free kick with some 24 minutes remaining.

“We kept our composure and stayed focused,” Santes noted of Barton’s defensive effort. “They were good competition and had lots of opportunities. They sneaked up on us and were able to get a couple of goals. But we got one back. The refs gave them a lot of calls, but we had to deal with what happens and keep our composure.

The Indians, in the second half, were especially dangerous with corner kicks and throw-ins.

Hassler agreed, commenting: “We just couldn’t take it the last four inches.”

The Catawba pair of Trentin and junior Sam Henneberg kept Barton’s defense busy the second half. In the meantime, the Bulldogs failed to finish excellent chances from Jonasson, Mancio and Aboutaleb.

“We had a couple of opportunities to finish,” McMichael assured. “We really started off on the attack and did some great things early. They were a quality opponent, but we will face many good ones through the season.”

Catawba’s Hassler summarized: “Barton did a great job and Ian has done a good job of organizing them. We did enough to win. Unfortunately, they put theirs in and we didn’t. But I am proud of the way we competed and the chances we created.”

However, Barton’s Breitenbach and Aboutaleb were convinced the go-ahead goal would hold up the last 10 minutes.

“No doubt about it,” Breitenbach responded. “The bench and everybody was hyped. We had a winning mentality.”

Santes pointed to a season-opening win on a new venue, the Electric Supply Company Field pitch.

“What a great way to start!,” he exclaimed.

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