By Andrew Stark
Entering the spring, Independence’s Natalie Barnett has already accomplished a great deal while leading the Patriots’ girls lacrosse team. After all, she was Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2012 Matthews-Mint Hill Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year as a freshman.
Barnett wasn’t ready to peak as a ninth-grader, however, so she challenged herself by joining a year-round team, the Queen City Stars.
Thankfully for the Patriots, the fruits of Barnett’s added dedication were evident this year when she upped her scoring output from 35 goals as a freshman to 49 goals while adding 10 assists and 46 groundballs during her sophomore campaign.
As a result, Barnett was one of four Patriots selected to participate in the 2013 Powerade State Games of North Carolina High School Lacrosse Showcase last month and, for the second consecutive season, was named the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group Matthews-Mint Hill Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.
But, still, Barnett isn’t satisfied.
“I think I had a good year and we did a lot better as a team,” she said. “But I want to do even better.
“I’ve been working on shooting and dodging. I’m focusing on the little things that will make a big difference. And I’ve really been working on my shot a lot. Last year I was more shooting at the goal, but I’ve been working at placing my shots and making sure they go in.”
Barnett’s quest for improvement isn’t simply self-motivated, however. Instead, she believes it can directly benefit her team, as well.
“I think playing year-round is helping me to get better,” she said. “I know if my skills improve I can help each of the other girls get better, too.”
So far, she’s right. With Barnett leading the way, the improved Patriots won four games this season, doubling their win total from 2012.
The Patriots also won their first Conference 8 game this season by defeating South Mecklenburg, 16-9, on March 20. In the teams’ rematch, Barnett scored a career-high seven goals in a 16-15 defeat –one of three one-goal losses the Patriots suffered – on April 18.
While the breakout performance was further validation that she’s the shining star of a team on the rise, the close losses are what keep Barnett motivated to lead the Patriots to even higher ground, something she thinks can happen next season. To prove it, she’s spending another summer with the Stars and training with former Providence Day standout and current Coastal Carolina player Austin Brown.
“After two years, the team is a lot better,” Barnett said. “We all know each other better, we know how each of us plays on the field and we’re learning how to play together.
“I’m looking forward to this year because I think I’m getting better and I think we’re going to be a lot better in our third year, too.”