Barnett’s strong play lifts first-year program
by Andrew Stark
Independence began its inaugural girls lacrosse season with 18 freshmen and only four players who had any experience in the sport. As expected, the growing pains associated with a new program featuring so many young players were evident at times.
However, the Patriots defeated Hopewell, 14-2, on March 8 and again on April 9, earning the first wins in school history. They also closed the season by playing well in a loss to rival Butler, showing how far they’ve come as a team.
As the Patriots matured on the field, Natalie Barnett helped lead the way. The freshman attacker was named captain before the season began and took it upon herself to help make her teammates better. When it was game time, Barnett scored a team-high 35 goals, and, with her 4.5 GPA, was named the Patriots’ scholar award winner.
Now Barnett can add a new accomplishment to her strong season: the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2012 Matthews-Mint Hill Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year award.
“It was a challenge because it was a building year,” Barnett said. “But I think by the end of the season we had accomplished what we wanted to do.
“Becoming more of a leader helped me a lot. Being able to teach everyone was a learning experience for me, too, because I had to learn how to teach and how to be more of a leader.”
Barnett said almost every member of the Patriots will participate in a skills development camp with Independence coaches this summer, which she believes will make for a much better team when play begins next spring.
“Next year, we will be a lot better,” said Barnett, who’s playing for the Queen City Stars select team this summer, often matching up with the area’s best players.
“We will have 18 players who were freshmen, and now they are one year better and have more experience. If we all work together, we will win more games and show everyone that we are not the new team anymore.”
Barnett, who’s been playing competitive lacrosse for four years, said she began because of a rivalry with her brother, Tanner, a rising junior on the boys team. Now, she hopes that the same type of (usually) friendly competition can help the Patriots become a more competitive team next season.
“This year has been fun overall,” Barnett said. “I got better as a player and improved my stick skills and got better passing the ball. Plus, I got better at being a leader, and that helped my game.
“It’s exciting knowing we are getting better as a team and that I will be one of the people who helped start the team and will be with it for the first four years. I look forward to seeing where we will be by then.”