GREAT BEND, Kansas — With the top spot already secured in the KJCCC West standings, there was no pressure for the No. 8 ranked Cloud County Community College men's soccer team on Thursday when it traveled to face conference foe, Barton Community College.
Pride was more than enough motivation between the two long-time rivals. And the bragging rights belonged to the T-Birds following Thursday's 3-1 victory that completed the season sweep of the Cougars and capped an undefeated run through the conference schedule.
Sophomore forward Luiz Garcia again led the charge for Cloud County (12-1 overall, 10-0 KJCCC West) as the reigning NJCAA Division I Player of the Week notched his first career hat trick.
"I think Luiz is the national player of the year," said Cloud County head coach, James Ross, who has now helped lead the T-Birds to six straight wins over Barton. "He just put in a hat trick against an outstanding Barton team. Just absolutely phenomenal."
Garcia, who scored four goals as a freshman, now owns 16 this season — the second most in the KJCCC and tied for 15th most in the nation — and has at least one goal in all 11 games he has played in.
He led the scoring off at the 20:43 mark of the first half with a goal off a penalty kick, making him a spotless 5-for-5 in PK attempts so far this season.
Garcia scored his second goal eight minutes into the second half on a long lead pass from sophomore defenseman, Rafael Alkmin.
Barton (8-5-1 overall, 3-3-1 KJCCC West) scored at the 57:04 mark to get back within a goal, but Garcia would ice the game with 3:33 remaining following a laser from just inside the box that gave Cloud a two-goal lead again at 3-1.
Barton finished with a 17-12 shot advantage on Thursday, seven of which were on goal, but Albuquerque and company were up to the challenge.
"Charles was a beast and the back row played phenomenal (Thursday)," Ross said.
Cloud County will now turn its attention toward a pair of non-conference home games to round out the regular season, starting with a 4 p.m. match against Hesston College on Monday.