The opportunity was in front in of them. The Barton men’s soccer team held the second-seed in the post season in its own hands thanks to a tie by Cloud County earlier in the day.
But it look as if that wasn’t going to matter. Kansas City Kansas had led nearly the entire game. It looked as if the Cougars were going to finish the season with just their third loss of the year and take the third seed into the post season.
But Barton scored twice in the final 15 minutes of play to close out the regular season with a 3-2 win at KCK and move into the Region VI playoffs with that second seed.
Barton finished the regular season at 14-2 overall and 8-2 in the Jayhawk Conference. KCK ends at 8-7-1 and 4-5-1. KCK will be the sixth seed. Cloud, with its ties, goes 7-2-1 and 9-2-1.
“It was a tough win,” Barton Coach Aaron Avila said. “We kept battling and finished with a great result.”
Barton will now play host to Cowley College, also 4-5-1 in the conference but the seventh seed due to the tiebreaker with KCK. That contest will be played at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
With the current Region VI playoff format that second seed is big.
The contest with KCK was scoreless for most of the first half with KCK finally getting on the board with just seven minutes left in the opening half.
The contest stayed 1-0 until just 16:20 to play in the game when Barton finally got on the board. It was the familiar combination of Renan Sousa and Lucas Alves that erased the goose egg for the Cougars.
Alves scored for the 13th time this year on an assist from Sousa – his 15th of the season.
But that didn’t last long. Just 35 seconds later KCK was back in front as a flurry of action took place in short time span.
Trailing 2-1 Barton even the scored in the next minute. This time is was Kato Endo who put his corner kick in the net to even the game.
Barton took its first lead of the contest with seven minutes left. Sergio Ribeiro scored an unassisted goal when he drilled a bullet into the net in the 18-yard box, beating the KCK keeper low and giving Barton a 3-2.
The Cougars made that lead standup with a tenacious defense the final seven minutes of the contest.
Barton will host Cowley a team it defeated 5-1 in Arkansas City back in early September.
“We will have very little rest before our playoff game on Thursday against Cowley,” Coach Avila said. “But the guys will be ready to play. Every game will be extremely tough at this point.”
If Barton should win that game, being the second seed will loom large.
Barton would host a semifinal game with a win over Cowley – potentially against Cloud if the Thunderbirds beat KCK. Had Cloud stayed the No. 2 seed and both teams won that game would have been played in Concordia.