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In terms of program building within the confines of NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas, it has been a reasonable two-year progression for Barton College and head coach Thomas Goines. The Lady Bulldogs improved from an eighth-place finish in the league in Goines’ first season to a No. 5 seed in 2016. Barton lost in the opening round of the Conference Carolinas tournament both times, last year coming at the high elevation of Banner Elk and Lees-McRae College.
Nine of Barton’s 17 matches in 2017 involved a shutout on one side or the other. For the defensive-minded Lady Bulldogs, this was problematic. In that span of zeros, Barton was just 2-6-1.
So what’s the answer to inject more life into the attack? For Goines at this point, it’s the transfer route. Juniors Laisy Scardazzi and Jordyn Brown arrive as attacking forwards from Young Harris (Georgia) College, while closer to home, sophomore and Northern Nash High product Rebekah Beal returns to the area after a freshman season at Chowan University. Beal led the Hawks, who join Conference Carolinas this year as a women’s soccer member, with 13 goals and three assists last year. Scardazzi was second on the Mountain Lions with seven goals.
“They come in and they go hand-in-hand with Taylor Doeble, who’s been here now going into her senior season,” Goines said. “I think that puts us in a place on the attack where we should be fairly dangerous most of the time. As long as all of them are healthy and able to run at some people. Bringing in some of those transfers allowed some of our younger players to learn. Last year, we told our freshmen to go in there and learn on the job. We’ve now got some of our younger players who can learn from experienced players.”
Admittedly, Barton made its offensive living on the counter last season after rostering a whopping 22 freshmen. Doeble will be shifted into more of a midfield presence as the incoming transfers take primary roles up top for the Lady Bulldogs.
“We’re going to learn our identity defensively because I think we’ll be able to press more,” Goines said. “Where last year, we were able to sit deep and counter, defending from a pressing position is a very different mentality than defending from a sitting position. While I expect to be stout, I think there will be a learning curve as we start learning we can get up the field.”
Plenty of experience returns for Barton in net with senior Haley Sauls back for her final season. She brings back 83 saves and an .803 save percentage from her junior year.
“She’s had to sit behind two very quality goalkeepers her first two years, and she’s learned her lessons,” Goines said of Sauls. “It’s been her turn, and last year, she shared minutes a little bit. This year, she’s really earned her time and her spot. So we’re looking forward to her controlling that role. Barton was picked to finish in a tie for fifth in the preseason poll alongside King University. Limestone was picked to win the league with seven first-place votes, followed by the four first-place nods of Belmont Abbey.
For Barton, securing a top-eight spot to extend its season takes priority. Rising above the fifth-place prognostication to get a conference tournament home game comes next.
“I think that’s where you start everything,” Goines said. “Ultimately, our goals are first to make the playoffs and after that, try to host a playoff game. That’s always a nice thing to have that extra benefit, being able to sleep in your own bed before playing in the playoffs. A reach would be to see if we can’t make the semis, and put yourself in a position to see if you can’t shock the world and move on from there.”