Barlow plays blind to beat the Blues
6A GIRLS SOCCER
|St. Mary's (6-7-3)|
The teams could have used Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to find their way with a dense fog covering the field for Tuesday's second-round girls playoff game.
In the end, Barlow managed to find the goal twice in a 2-0 win over St. Mary's to make a repeat visit to the 6A quarterfinals this weekend.
"We are a time that likes possession and swinging the ball around," Barlow coach Jay Jacobsen said. "You can't do that when you can't see 20 or 30 yards away."
Still, Barlow was able to connect on enough short-range passes to set up early scoring chances. Ten minutes in, Abi Hoffman hit a bouncer toward the goal that forced St. Mary's goalie Chella Fedota to slide down to make a save at the post.
Not much later, Hoffman was on the hunt again, this time receiving a throw-in deep in Blues' territory and hitting a blast that caught a defender's leg and deflected over the goal. St. Mary's cleared the ensuing corner kick out of danger.
Barlow created another good look in the 32nd minute when Kennedie Shuler had her legs taken out on a run in the attacking zone. The Bruins set up for a free kick centered on the goal 30 yards out. Hoffman took a run at the ball, gave it a quick touch and got out of the way, while teammate Mikayla Topaum rushed to the spot and hit a hard shot that was absorbed by St. Mary's wall of defenders.
The Bruins cracked the code less than five minutes before halftime when Shuler fed a roller ahead to Hoffman, who took a quick touch then clipped the ball with the outside of her right foot to beat the goalie to the far post.
"Getting something positive to happen before the half gave us a jolt of energy," Jacobsen said.
Barlow almost got another jolt a couple minutes later when Hoffman fired another laser that sent Fedota flying for the save. The Bruins put a dangerous free kick to the front of the goal only to have St. Mary's rookie Elaina Williams be first to it and clear it away.
Barlow goalie Biz Springer came up with half-a-dozen stops in the first half, but her biggest challenge was still ahead.
The Blues were hunting an equalizer 10 minutes into the second half when Maggie Farra broke free down the left side and fired from 15 yards out. The shot was on target for the open far side of the net, but Springer went horizontal into the air and swiped the save of the night.
"It's playoffs, so I'm going to go all out for every ball," Springer said.
Farra was on the move again, this time absorbing a foul at the edge of the 18-yard box. That set up teammate Isabella Esler for the team's closest-range free kick of the night, but she applied too much power, and the ball sailed cleanly out the far sideline.
Barlow was also creating offense over this stretch, sending two shots over the top and another wide.
St. Mary's kept pushing in its quest to force overtime with Torie Snyder sending a long roller down the center of the field. Barlow defender Rachel Maness won the footrace to the ball against St. Mary's rookie Evie Kim, and calmly played a pass back to Springer, who cleared the ball out of the attacking zone.
The Blues' final chance to pull even came in the 65th minute when Snyder made a run down near the corner flag before twisting around and sending a cross to the front of the goal. Teammate Tess Nye settled the high bouncer for a moment, but was quickly surrounded by blue shirts and was unable to threaten the goal.
Barlow put the match out of reach when Hoffman made a run down the right side before being bumped off the ball just a step outside the box. The foul set up a free kick for Topaum, who booted a high knuckleball that cleared the three-person wall and dived down at the last moment, clipping the inside of the far post and deflecting into the net for the goal.
"When it's that close, I just focused on following through and hitting that top corner," Topaum said.
While the play secured the second-round win, it came at a price.
Upon absorbing the bump, Hoffman crumpled to the turf in pain, immediately shouting for her coach. Jacobsen and Barlow trainer Cam Purington rushed onto the field and spent several minutes evaluating and comforting their fallen player. Each helped Hoffman off the field, although her right foot never touched the turf on her way to the bench. The Bruins' leading scorer ended the night with a bag of ice taped around her right knee.
"Any time you see a player go down like that it's crushing," Jacobsen said. "We hope she is okay, she is a difficult player to replace, but if she isn't back it's going to have to be next girl up."
And next up for the Bruins (14-0-2) in Saturday's 3 p.m. quarterfinals is powerhouse Jesuit, the No. 1-ranked team that is going after its third consecutive state title. The Crusaders (16-0-1) have not surrendered a goal in eight playoff matches, dating back to the 2017 semifinals.
"They are a great team, and are ranked No. 1 for a reason, but this is going to be a normal week for us. We will go into it prepared and focused," Jacobsen said. "It's the playoffs, you are going to have to beat some great teams to advance."
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This story is slated for our Friday, Nov. 8, print edition.
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