T-Birds tie No. 4 ranked Barton in final KJCCC West game of the regular season

Cloud County sophomore goalkeeper Charles Albuquerque had five saves in Wednesday's scoreless tie against No. 4 Barton
Cloud County sophomore goalkeeper Charles Albuquerque had five saves in Wednesday's scoreless tie against No. 4 Barton

GREAT BEND, Kansas — A tie is rarely satisfying. Although it may have been a fitting result for Wednesday's clash between KJCCC West men's soccer powerhouses Cloud County Community College and No. 4 ranked Barton Community College.

The two rivals played 110, drama-filled minutes with the KJCCC West championship on the line, but ended back where they started the afternoon in a 0-0 tie following two overtime periods.

Cloud County (11-4-1 overall, 10-1-1 KJCCC West), which would have clinched its third straight conference title with a victory on Wednesday, currently leads the KJCCC West with 31 points. The T-Birds have played all their conference games and will now wait and see what happens in Barton's conference finale against Northwest Kansas Technical College on Saturday.

A win for the Cougars (13-1-2 overall, 9-0-2 KJCCC West), who sit second in the standings with 29 points, will give them the KJCCC West title outright, while a loss or a tie to Northwest Kansas Technical College would give the T-Birds the conference crown.

"Everyone is a little heartbroken because they wanted to win the conference outright (Wednesday), so settling for the tie was rough," said Cloud County head coach, Charles Long. "But from a game standpoint, one of the linesmen said it was one of the best games he's worked all year. I don't think we played great as a team, we struggled to find the back of the net, but a positive was we didn't make any mistakes today."

Cloud County's best chance at grabbing victory came during the final 15 minutes of regulation as the T-Birds dictated action on Barton's side of the field but were just unable to push across the go-ahead goal.

"We dominated the last 15 minutes of regulation. JP (Jean-Pierre Dasylva) had a real nice shot that got deflected and we were just unable to put it away," Long said.

The offensive struggle was a two-way street as the Cougars were unable to beat Cloud County sophomore goalkeeper Charles Albuquerque. The T-Birds' netminder finished with five saves, including a game-saving stop in double-overtime.

"Barton had an amazing shot attempt there in the second overtime and I have no idea how Charles saved it," said Long of Albuquerque. "He played confident in the net and did his job. And I thought our defensemen, especially Wanes (Wanes Hobat) played exceptionally well."

Cloud County will find out whether it will be the No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed for next week's Region VI tournament on Saturday with the conclusion of the game between Barton-Northwest Kansas Technical College.

The T-Birds have added a non-conference game on the road against McPherson College JV to stay sharp for what Long said is the real prize for the T-Birds: a guaranteed spot in the postseason and a chance to fight their way back to the national tournament.

"As I told the boys, our goal was to make it to the playoffs and we've made it. And we just pushed the No. 4 team in the country to a 0-0 tie at their house," Long said. "That's not something to take lightly. For us not having our best game, that's a good sign for us. It shows we can play with the big boys."