NIWOT — The fresh scrape just above Maddie Barkow's right knee told all you needed to know about the physical nature of Tuesday's Northern League soccer tilt between Niwot and Centaurus.
Arms raised in triumph and a big smile on her face after scoring a 30-yard game-winning goal in overtime spoke of relief for the Cougars as they had to rally hard for a 2-1 victory against the Warriors in overtime.
It was brutal out on the pitch between two very good squads, but after Niwot coach Rob Johnson challenged his team at the half after giving up a penalty kick goal with just under a minute before the break, the Cougars responded in a big way to extend their win streak to five straight.
"We needed to have this win today and we just needed to come through as a team," said Barkow, who scored her fourth goal of the season as the team moved to 8-3 overall and 6-1 in league play. "We came out in the second half and knew we were still in it and that we had a chance, and we knew we were going to make chances for ourselves going on.
"We just needed to finish."
An evenly played first half gave way to a Niwot-dominated game in the second, but the Cougars were forced to fight for a tying goal in regulation after Jamie Turcotte planted a penalty kick goal for a 1-0 Warriors lead after Ximena Silva had been pushed down in the box.
It was fresh in Johnson's mind as he gathered his team for a talk, and he made his stance known about both the call and the lackadaisical play he felt from his girls.
Niwot started firing away at goalie Roxana Vranian soon after, led by Hannah Gray who had multiple charges at the net. One of them was finally rewarded when she got a perfect diagonal cross from Sarah Sypher and, well-defended, still managed to get her left foot into a drive to the far post in the 56th minute to make it 1-1.
Vranian staved off some other chances while her offensive teammates struggled to string connections together in the final 30 minutes of play.
Barkow got her chance to let loose from the middle of the field with 2:10 left in the first overtime, a nearly unstoppable shot right under the cross bar. Normally a flank player, she had played this game in the interior of the field to help neutralize the absence of Lauren Wolf (concussion).
"We have to have a little more urgency but other than that I really can't complain," Johnson said. "I thought this game was going to be a 1-1 Northern tie, and I was going to be OK with that because Centaurus is a great battle. To get the win, I can't complain."
"I just had to have a little different mindset really," Barkow said of her temporary position. "I never take that shot; I'm usually the one to take the flank and cross it in. But I saw an open goal and took my shot."
Centaurus, which lost forward Linsi Calvo for the year with an ACL injury four games back, entered Tuesday's affair with an 0-2-1 mark in its last three contests. They appeared to have some rhythm in the first half through the middle of the field but things tended to break down in the scoring third.
Then the Cougars came out with a fire in their belly.
"Injuries have kind of influenced the setup of our team, but kudos to the girls who are out there for playing tough and adjusting to a formation change," Centaurus coach Mario Bezzina said. "We had a patchy first 10-15 minutes, then we had some flow. Second half, (Niwot) just came out aggressive and we lost momentum."
Niwot 2, Centaurus 1 (OT)
At Niwot HSCentaurus (6-4-1, 1-2-1) 1 0 0 — 1
Niwot (8-3, 6-1) 0 1 1 — 2
Goals (assists) — Centaurus: Jamie Turcotte (penalty kick), 40th minute; Niwot: Hannah Gray (Sarah Sypher assist), 56th; Niwot: Maddie Barkow (unassisted), 88th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Centaurus: Roxana Vranian (88-2-6); Niwot: Ali Colvin (88-1-3).