The Columbus State women’s soccer team looked like they were going to cruise to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Division II tournament on Sunday afternoon at Walden Field, scoring two goals in the game’s first eleven minutes.
However, opponent Armstrong State had other ideas.
In the end, the Lady Cougars awoke after Armstrong tied the game 2-2 in the 30th minute, with junior and local product Georgia Barton providing the rest of the offense in a 5-2 victory for CSU.
For Barton, a Northside High graduate, she tripled her entire offensive output for the season prior to Sunday — one goal — with the hat trick.
“I actually don’t play forward,” Barton said. “This is the first time I played forward this season. It’s different to play in the midfield all year and then get a chance up top. (Scoring the hat trick is) a great feeling.”
“We just made the change this week,” said head coach Jay Entlich of moving Barton to forward. “It’s one of those things with our program. We don’t drop an anchor on a player. What that means is we’re constantly trying to find different positions if they’re not getting playing time to locate where they can best help our program.”
Freshman Flo Spano assisted Barton on her first two goals in the first half, with both players coming off the bench to provide a spark after Armstrong State tied the game.
“I think the momentum was down for a little bit, but as soon as Coach started yelling and everyone started panicking, we said this is not happening,” Spano said. “For our seniors, this may have been their last game. We weren’t letting that happen.
“I haven’t had an assist in a while. Honestly, I just wanted to play, and I have fun playing. It was with the help of everyone around me, and I’m happy to play around these girls.”
“I think there was a little bit of complacency and feeling the game was in hand, but that’s never the case against a good opponent,” Entlich said. “I knew they weren’t going to lay down.”
It marks the third victory for the Lady Cougars over Armstrong State in the past three weeks, all in different settings. They defeated them 3-0 in regular season action on Oct. 27, then beat them 3-1 on Nov. 4 in the Peach Belt Conference tournament en route to the conference title.
“It’s very difficult to beat the same team three times,” Entlich said. “All the credit goes to Armstrong. They came out with a great game plan today. We were fortunate to get a couple of early goals, and some of our players that came off the bench made a huge impact today.”
The win kept the Lady Cougars’ home unbeaten streak going, now at 34 games. It is also the team’s 14th straight win overall, with the CSU Division II-leading offense outscoring their opponents 71-7 during that stretch.
Besides Barton’s three goals, Mandy Janowitz and Olivia Jarrell scored in the first half for the Lady Cougars.
CSU will travel to Barry University in Miami on Friday to face North Georgia for the Southeast Division title. The Lady Cougars defeated North Georgia 3-2 for the PBC title on Nov. 6 and beat them 3-2 on the road in the regular season on Sep. 21.