Girls soccer: Barlow finds soft spots in Putnam's defense, scores 3-0 win
Barlow High School's girls soccer did not make the mistake of taking the Putnam Kingsmen lightly on Tuesday night.
It's not unheard of for a 6A school ranked in the top 10 such as Barlow to go on the road against an unranked, upset-minded Class 5A school such as Putnam and get beat.
But the Bruins, ranked No. 5 in the latest 6A coaches' poll, were exceedingly diligent and precise in their execution against the Kingsmen, riding first-half goals by Abi Hoffman and Mikayla Topdum to a 3-0 non-conference win at Putnam's Foelker Field.
Kennedie Shuler had Barlow's other goal in the 50th minute and goalkeeper Elizabeth Springer made several big saves in the second half to register her first shutout of the season and help the Bruins (2-0-1) remain undefeated through three games.
"You're always happy when you get a good result like that," Barlow coach Jay Jacobsen said. "I thought we played well. We had some opportunities we normally finish that didn't find the net, but overall I'm happy with the result.
"I think we're gradually getting better and that's all I can ask for as a coach — each game, improving."
Putnam (2-2-0) focused most of its energy on the defensive end to start the game, then shifted gears after Barlow opened a 2-0 lead and became more assertive in the attack.
Ashley Swanson had a partial breakaway for the Kingsmen off a Barlow turnover in 37th minute, and Sarah Rope made some strong runs in the second half that created scoring chances for Kyla Miller, Sasha Stumpf, and Swanson.
None of the shots found their way past Springer, but at least the Kingsmen could take some pride in the fact that they made the Bruins' sophomore keeper work for her shutout.
"That's the best team we'll play all season long, by a country mile," Putnam coach Michael John Tate said. "To hang with them, to compete with them, to actually play some good stuff against them in stages shows me that we've come a long way."
Tuesday's final score didn't look a whole lot different than the 4-0 loss the Bruins hung on Putnam last season, but Tate said the progress his team has made from then to now is like night and day.
"We weren't worthy to tie their shoelaces last year. That' show big the difference was," Tate said. "Last year, we lost 4-nil and we weren't even in the ballpark. This year, we lost 3-nil and were in the ballpark and had our own chances.
"That was more important to us, that performance. The result, we'll live with that. But, ultimately, that was good for us, psychologically. We'll learn more in this loss than any victory, no doubt about it."
Putnam resorted to what Tate called a "low block" strategy to start the game, which meant the Kingsmen didn't press hight, but dropped behind the midfield line and played what was the equivalent of a half-court defense in basketball.
"We let them have the ball in their half of the field, and then when they crossed the halfway line, then we would do all our business," Tate said. "That's not normally how we play, but we knew what we were getting — a very high-powered offense."
The game plan worked fine until the 22nd minute when Hoffman, the Bruins' junior forward/midfielder, unloaded a left-footed shot from about 30 yards out on the left side that found its way past Putnam keeper Isabela Monaco and inside the far post, top corner, to make it 1-0.
"I was just looking for something that would get my team going and give us some momentum," said Hoffman, last year's co-offensive player of the year in the Mt. Hood Conference. "So, I just hit one and it went where it was supposed to go."
Bridget Aguirre set up Barlow's second goal with a pass from the right wing into the middle of the 16-yard box to a crashing Topdum, who took one touch and then poked the ball between Monaco and the right post to make it 2-0.
Shuler then closed out the scoring with an assist from Naomi Whipps at the end of a transition rush, the ball from left to right much like the second goal.
The Bruins had other chances to score late in the game, but Monaco stepped up a few times to keep it at 3-0.
"There are things we can improve on," Jacobsen said of Barlow's performance. "We didn't play the perfect game today. We've got some new pieces in place this year and I think we're still trying to figure out some things.
"It's only our third game, so it's still early on, and I'm trying a few different players in different positions and trying some different formations. Yeah, you could say maybe we should have won by more, but at the same time, we got a shutout and I'm happy with that."
Said Hoffman: "I feel we played well. We have a lot more potential, though, and we should have started off a little sharper from the start. Other than that, we got the result that we needed."
The Kingsmen also are still working through some early-season issues, including finding a replacement for injured center back Peyton Pickett, but at least Tate walking away from Tuesday's match convinced that his team is pointed in the right direction.
"We're really, really confident and that showed tonight, despite the loss," Tate said. "As we told the girls, the result was not the desired result or wanted, but the performance was the desired performance. The effort was 100 percent. The tactical acumen, for the most part, I liked it.
"We really feel strongly about the depth of our squad this season, no doubt about it. And the mentality is strong. Everyone heard that. We were very excited on the bench. Three-nil down and everyone's still cheering each other. That's a big deal for us. And that wasn't the case last season."
By Jim Beseda
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