TOPEKA — The NJCAA Region VI finals will take place without a familiar jersey.
The Barton Community College men’s soccer team failed to make the finals of the region for just the second time in the last seven years.
The Cougars were eliminated from the postseason with a 2-0 loss to Cloud County on Thursday evening in semifinal action at Hummer Sports Complex.
The only other time Barton failed to reach the Region VI finals in the past seven years was also thanks to a semifinal loss to Cloud in 2011. Cloud went on to win the NJCAA title that season.
In fact, since the 2004 season, Barton had only missed the finals twice — in 2011 and in 2006, when the school was on probation.
Today’s championship will be without either of the top two seeds. It will pit the 2011 champion and No. 3 Cloud against No. 4 seed Johnson.
Johnson has won numerous region titles, the latest coming back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.
Johnson defeated the top seed in the region, Coffeyville, in penalty kicks 4-1 after the two clubs battle through a scoreless tie through two overtimes.
Cloud took an early lead in the contest against Barton when Christopher Lavery received a pass for a one-on-one with Barton keeper Mauricio Vargas. Lavery slipped the ball past a diving Vargas on the right side just more than 11 minutes into the contest.
The Thunderbirds pushed their lead to 2-0 in the 26th minute when Lavery scored his second goal of the half.
Despite the fact most of the half was played with Barton on the attack in Cloud’s end of the field, the Thunderbirds took advantage of the chances they had.
Barton continued to control the ball in the second half, but the opening 45 minutes would prove to be all the scoring as Cloud held Barton without a goal.
It was the fourth time in five losses the Cougars were shutout.
Barton outshot Cloud by a 15-9 count, but could only put four of those shots on goal, the same number as Cloud.
The Cougars held a 5-2 advantage on corner kicks and Cloud committed 19 fouls to just six for Barton, but none of that mattered in the final score.
The Cougars end their season with an 11-5-1 mark, while Cloud moves into the finals with a 12-8 record.
The Thunderbirds’ foe in the finals, Johnson, is 13-6 while No. 20 Coffeyville ends with a 15-5 mark.