OT penalty kick lifts Bulldogs
Nick Barkley found the way to score goals as a defender on the soccer field.
It's simple - be the most confident and reliable penalty kicker on the team. The Baldwin High School senior displayed those skills at practice Monday, which was preparation for the following night's contest.
"Actually, last night, the day before the game, we shot probably 50 PKs and Nick was the most comfortable taking them," coach Matt McCune said. "He's going to take them for the rest of the year until he misses. If he takes 15 PKs, he might be our leading scorer by the end of the year."
Barkley booted two kicks - one of which was the game winner - on Tuesday as the Bulldogs beat Paola 2-1 in overtime.
"Yeah, it's not what we would have liked, but we fought through it and won the game," Barkley said. "It's always great to win at home when everybody comes out to watch us."
The BHS senior sent the first penalty kick into the goal late in the first half to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. His final goal occurred during the second overtime.
Paola was called for a hand ball in its own penalty box, giving Baldwin a chance to win the game with a penalty kick. Once again, Barkley stepped up, put his foot into the ball and won the Frontier League game.
"It's a change from just kicking them out of our area to kicking the ball into the goal," Barkley said. "There was more pressure on the second kick, but I just calmed myself down and kicked it like I would in practice."
McCune was thrilled to win the game, although he didn't like seeing it end with a bit of controversy on the hand ball penalty.
"I never like it when penalty kicks determine the outcome of a game, but obviously when you win, it's OK," McCune said. "That wasn't the focus, however. The focus was allowing no goals. If you take the PK away, we had a shutout."
Paola's only goal also came on a penalty kick shortly after Barkley's first score. Neither team scored during the 45-minute second half or the first 10-minute overtime period.
Despite the lack of goal scoring in the game, which is an aspect of the game the Bulldogs haven't worked on yet in practice, according to McCune, he is pleased with his players' improvements on the field.
"We played well," McCune said. "We had tried to work on keeping the ball in our possession more and we also wanted to win the 50-50 balls, which are huge in soccer. We were more aggressive tonight than they were.
"We are definitely getting better at keeping the ball in bounds," he said. "I don't like it when the ball leaves the boundaries. We did a fantastic job tonight of keeping it in when we should and kicking it out when that was the last option."
Tuesday's win was the Bulldogs' second at home as its only loss came on the road last week.
"This is a tough field for teams to come play on," McCune said. "I know it is, so we're happy to be 2-0 at home. We're also 1-1 in league play right now, which is good."
Last Thursday, Baldwin traveled to Spring Hill to play its first league game of the season. The Bulldogs were defeated 3-0 in a game that started ugly for BHS fans.
"We had a five-hour layover, because we had to leave at 1:30 for a 6 o'clock game," McCune said. "We started sluggish because of that and we gave up two quick goals. After that we played them even, despite them being faster and bigger than us."
McCune wasn't pleased with the slow start by his team, which he said improved during the game, especially after halftime.
"They learned at halftime, trust me," McCune said. "Well, they actually learned during the game, because we had some kids who were swinging for the ball instead of jockeying for position. Obviously, the wins aren't as important as the learning process right now and I've seen a lot of learning."
The Bulldogs play at Ottawa today with the junior varsity team playing at 4:30 p.m. and the varsity starting at 6 p.m. Then they host Louisburg on Tuesday with the varsity starting at 4 p.m. and the JV at 6 p.m.