The top of the Jayhawk Conference standings is very crowded. To stay in that crowd and battle for the top spot a team can’t afford home losses – or even ties – to teams near the bottom of the standings.
That was nearly the case Saturday for the Barton men’s soccer team. The Cougars escaped with a 1-0 win over Neosho at the Cougars Sports Complex.
“It was a tough conference victory for us,” Barton coach Aaron Avila said. “The game was very physical and we were not finishing opportunities particularly well.”
The win keeps Barton in the thick of things in the Jayhawk. Barton is now 4-1 in the conference and 9-1 overall. The 12 points currently puts the Cougars fourth in the standings but the two of the three teams tied for the lead at 15 points have played more games.
Pratt is 5-0 on the season and all purposes the leader even though it is tied for the lead with 15 points. Garden City is 5-1 and Cloud County 5-2. Barton’s next two games are at Garden then at Cloud.
Fortunately for the Cougars the defense made Barton’s only goal stand up.
That lone goal came early in the second half.
Barton freshman Lucas Alves took a long pass from sophomore Renan Sousa in the open. Alves put a move on a defender, slipped around him and fired a shot to the far post and into the net.
The only goal of the game was the ninth of the season for Alves, tying him with Sousa for the team lead through 10 games. Sousa now has 11 assists on the year as well – five more than the Jiro Barriga Toyama in second.
“We were able to capitalize on one of our opportunities and defend well as a team.” coach Avila said.
Defend the Cougars did. Barton allowed Neosho just three shots in the hard-fought contest. The shutout for the Cougars is the fourth on the season but the first in nearly a month. Barton has allowed just nine goals in its 10 outings.
Barton’s next two matches will go a long way in determining just where Barton will finish in the standings. Pratt at 5-0 may be tough to catch with wins over Garden, Barton, KCK, and Johnson already.
Garden and Barton are the only one loss teams with Cloud and KCK at two losses.
Barton will be at Garden Saturday in a 1 p.m. start then at Cloud on Oct. 15 for its next two games.