The anticipation of breaking a 16-month layoff was almost too much for Barlow's girls soccer team to handle Monday night.
But the reigning Mt. Hood Conference champion Bruins shook off a case of the nerves, getting two goals from senior Mikayla Topaum for a 2-0 win at Beaverton in the season opener for both teams.
“It was great to finally be out there with everybody again,” Topaum said. “I was really excited about it. We were nervous, but we got it done. The first half was a little bit rough. We've got some new girls, so we were a little bit nervous. But we just grinded it out and worked as a team.”
Topaum, who has signed with Northern Arizona, scored in each half. She was assisted on both goals by senior Abi Hoffman, the three-time conference player of the year.
“We've always played really well together, ever since freshman year,” Topaum said of Hoffman, who has signed with Portland State.
Topaum showed her skill on the second goal. She fielded a cross off her chest, settled the ball inside the 18-yard box, flipped it over two defenders to herself and volleyed it past the goalkeeper.
“It was just a phenomenal goal,” Barlow coach Jay Jacobsen said. “It was really nice.”
Jacobsen said his team's first-half performance “wasn't pretty,” but he liked how his team got into the match against the Beavers.
“Honestly everyone was just really excited to be back on the field,” Jacobsen said. “There was like this nervous excitement. We were a little bit too frantic in the first half. We needed to settle down a bit, and the second half, I thought we did that. We were able to move the ball a lot quicker, a lot more efficiently.”
Barlow has had to rebuild its back line after making the quarterfinals the last two years. Junior Erin Marynik and sophomore Josie DeLine were outstanding on defense Monday in front of junior goalkeepers Elizabeth Springer and Camryn Waibel, who played the first and second half, respectively.
“My two center backs were phenomenal tonight,” Jacobsen said. “They really held it down for us. Between all the emotions and the 40-minute halves, we really relied on our center backs to calm everything down a bit.”
Jacobsen lauded senior Willow Manwiller for controlling the action at midfield and sophomore forward Kennedie Shuler for providing pressure up front.
Beaverton, which brought back most of its starters from a team that went 8-6-1 and lost in the first round of the 6A playoffs in 2019, didn't have the firepower to match the Bruins.
“We had a great game, we just need to capitalize on our chances a little bit more,” Beavers coach Jennifer Kirwan said. “Barlow played a really good second half. You've got to give it to them. They're a really good team. They've got some great players.”
Kirwan said that facing the Bruins in the opener gave her team a “great measuring stick.”
“I love playing teams like Barlow,” Kirwan said. “I would take that any day. Barlow came out on top today, but I think we gave them a great run.”
Jacobsen said he was impressed with Beaverton.
“Very, very physical group,” he said. “They try to get into you a little bit, take you out mentally. Coach Kirwan has them looking really good. Talking with the team, they thought they were a worthy opponent.”
Given the situation this year, just playing a high school soccer match seemed like a win for both sides. And the warm, dry weather was a bonus.
“We lucked out today. It was like a little taste of fall,” Kirwan said. “I felt really fortunate. It was a fun game to play and a fun game to watch. For these last nine months, I didn't even know if we were going to have a chance to play. It was great to give this opportunity to kids.”