First-half deluge sends Barton past Crusaders

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Following a 10-day layoff induced by Hurricane Florence, the Barton College men’s soccer team could hardly be blamed if it showed signs of rust as it returned to NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas play against North Greenville University on Saturday afternoon.

However, the passing and combination play of the Bulldogs was in no way affected. 

Timing their runs and beating the final NGU defender with precision to avoid the offsides flag, Barton erupted for four goals in the opening 34 minutes, knocking the Crusaders back on their heels. A pair of defensive breakdowns 15 seconds apart allowed the visitors to apply a modicum of game pressure late in the second half, but Barton was able to consume the remaining clock and secure its first conference victory with a 5-3 win at Barton Outdoor Athletic Complex.

The Bulldogs, ahead of a Monday match at noon against Southern Wesleyan University at Gillette Soccer Complex, improved to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in league play. North Greenville dropped to 3-2-1 and evened its Conference Carolinas ledger at 1-1-1.

It was Barton’s best goal output against a conference opponent since 2015, dating back to a 5-1 road win over the same North Greenville squad.

“I thought we had some great flashes of quality play because we were playing simple,” Barton head coach Ian McMichael said. “We were playing unselfish, and great leadership from our seniors, making sure that we were ready to play today. We were a little sloppy at the end of the first half and sloppy at the end of the second half, but that’s on me. I’ve got to prepare the substitutions that we made; I’ve got to prepare those guys better....we’ve got to work on that. But we’ll clean that up.”

Any glitches at the ends of halves were more than offset by the quartet of freshman Ludovic Rocha, sophomore Pol Monells, sophomore Ruben Mancio and senior Tolly Beatson. Mancio scored twice for the Bulldogs, while Monells tallied a goal and two assists. Rocha launched Barton’s offensive outburst in the 10th minute, fielding a Monells cross to the center of the 18-yard penalty area and sending it past NGU keeper Noah Kendrick for the early advantage. The tally was the first collegiate goal for Rocha.

The Crusaders’ shaky defense was exposed by Mancio in the 13th minute off a breakaway. Mancio fielded the ball and remained onside, getting a one-on-one with Kendrick and sliding it into the net.

Beatson found Monells on a nifty give-and-go in the 23rd, as Monells fielded a through ball and tapped it in. 

Monells returned the favor in the 34th. He fielded a long ball down the right sideline and remained onside. Crossing the ball into the center of the area, Beatson collected the ball and put it past Kendrick.

Just like that, the Bulldogs had a commanding 4-0 advantage.

“We played pretty good,” Monells said. “We could have won 5-1, but we conceded a little bit to their team. But it’s a good result and we got the three points.

North Greenville drew one back before the end of the first half with Gareth Greene’s finish off an initially blocked shot. That sent Barton into halftime with a 4-1 cushion, but Mancio re-established the four-goal margin in the 54th by cashing in on a Crusaders’ defensive breakdown. Kendrick was drawn well off his line, allowing Mancio to calmly tap his fourth goal of 2018 into an open net.

Junior Francisco Noguera picked up the win in goal for the Bulldogs, making four saves to 72 minutes of play. With the four-goal cushion, he yielded to senior Jacob Baird, a product of North Lenoir High, for the final moments. 

Baird was put on an island by Barton’s defense in the 84th, as a pair of breakdowns in the final third allowed the Crusaders to close within the final score. 

Zach Baker finished a breakaway fueled by a Bulldogs’ giveaway, and after the kickoff, NGU’s Kike Molina quickly found Greene for his second tally. Baird stayed in and no move was made back to Noguera.

Barton outshot North Greenville 21-17, with Kendrick being forced into six stops. Bulldog defenders Julius Stefansson, a freshman, and junior Lorran Antonelli were assessed yellow cards along the way.

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“We looked like a team that had a nine-day break when we first started training this week,” McMichael said. “But I give our senior leadership all the credit for pushing us through training and making sure we were ready to play this afternoon.”