The reputation is solid. The Barton Community College men’s soccer team is good year after year.
That is pretty much the premise for the Cougars prediction to finish second in the Jayhawk Conference.
After all, the Cougars will bring back just four players from last season. Throw in a transfer and Barton will have just five sophomores on the team.
And last season wasn’t exactly a normal year for Barton finishing with a 4-3-2 conference record and a sixth place finish.
Now, of those four returning sophomores two were selected as All-Region picks. But it is going to be on the shoulders of the 20-something freshman on the roster to return the Cougars to the top of the Jayhawk.
Cloud County will open the season as the preseason pick to win the Jayhawk Conference. Barton follows the Thunderbirds in second. Johnson County, Dodge City, Neosho County and Coffeyville round out the top six.
That is somewhat interesting since in the preseason Top 20 poll released recently by the NJCAA, Coffeyville is the lone school ranked in the Top 20 – coming in at No. 20. Neosho is receiving votes. Those two are picked 5th and 6th by the conference coaches.
“We only have four returning players from last year’s team plus a transfer,” second-year coach Aaron Avila said. “We have a lot of talented new freshmen but only time will tell how well this new young team will mesh and play for one another. If we stay healthy, I expect to be very competitive.”
Among the returning are two of the Cougars top four scorers.
Renan Sousa, a second team All-Region pick at midfield returns for Barton. Sousa was the team’s leading scoring last season. The 5-7 Brazilian tied for the top spot with seven goals and added three assists for a team-high 17 points.
Also back is first-team forward Jiro Barriga Toyama. The 6-0 native of Japan added three goals and a team-high four assists.
The Cougars will get in one more scrimmage Friday at Tabor College then open the regular season by traveling to Central Christian College in McPherson Tuesday.
After a string of junior varsity games early in the year including the home opener Sept. 3 against the Sterling JV, the schedule will pick up. The first big test will come Sept. 9 when Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa comes to Barton. Tonkawa is a traditional power that is receiving Top 20 votes to start year.
“Our men were predicted to finish second,” coach Avila said. “These are just predictions and there is a lot of soccer yet to be played. Most of the teams in our conference improved due to the new international rules so the competition will be tough.”
Barton will open Jayhawk Conference play at Cowley Sept. 12. The first home conference game will follow with Pratt visiting Sept. 15.