Prep signing: Carson’s Katie Barringer
CHINA GROVE — Your eyes aren’t deceiving you.
Carson girls soccer really is 5-0 and 4-0 in the South Piedmont Conference.
That’s a surprise because the Carson girls have never been big winners, but it’s less of a surprise when you look at the roster. This is the year for which the Cougars have been gradually building, and they’ve outscored their early opponents 28-3.
“Seven seniors and four four-year starters,” assistant coach Kyle Neal said. “And three really good juniors who are three-year starters.”
One of those four-year starting seniors is Katie Barringer. She’s already scored eight goals this year — matching her total from the 2013 season — and she will continue her soccer career at Averett next fall.
“The program here started from almost nothing, but then Katie and her class got here,” Neal explained. “She’s been a great building block for us.”
Neal considers Cox Mill the team to beat in the SPC — “the bull of the woods,” and he acknowledges Hickory Ridge is stout, but he believes Carson can be in the championship mix.
Carson has beaten perennially strong West Rowan 1-0, the first time the Cougars ever have won against the Falcons, and Neal hopes that’s a program turning point from pretty good to being legitimate contenders.
Carson’s girls made the playoffs in 2012. Last season, they won a playoff game. This time, they’re hoping to take more step forward. Some names you know already — along with Barringer, familiar faces are Cassie Howard, Sarah Safrit, Cierra Josey, Katie Nichols and Alex Allen.
“These girls have done a lot of work the last few years,” said Neal, who has watched Carson progress from 3-13 to 8-8-3 to 9-8-1 — and now 5-0. “A lot of it has been girls like Katie who made the decision to play club soccer and not just play soccer when it’s the school season in the spring.”
Barringer was introduced to soccer in a South YMCA league as a second-grader. She liked it, but she put soccer aside to focus on basketball. She played on the hoops travel teams and did well. She didn’t think about soccer again until she was a seventh-grader at China Grove Middle School and Red Devils coach Ellen Howard approached her.
“She kind of pulled me out of the halls,” Barringer said with a smile. “She said I was a good athlete and I could really help the soccer team.”
That’s where it started. The soccer bug bit after that, and by the time, Barringer got to Carson, soccer was her athletic focus. She got off to a great start.
“First game, two goals against South Rowan, and we won 2-0,” Barringer said. “It was a lot of fun because a lot of my teammates also were my best friends.”
There would me more lean times than good times in the North Piedmont Conference for a while. West was strong, Statesville was always tough, and North Iredell and West Iredell were solid.
“Katie had some big goals last year in breakthrough wins against Statesville and North Iredell and we finished third in the league,” Neal said.
Barringer had eight goals and seven assists as a junior and led the Cougars in scoring.
She’s continued to improve by playing club soccer with people such as Salisbury’s Kate Grant and Susannah Dixon.
“It’s gotten easier,” Barringer said. “I’ve gotten enough confidence now where I can just play and not think so much about everything.”
Barringer, with the help of coaches, got her profile posted online, and that’s how Averett, a Division III school in Danville, Va, found out about her.
“I went up for a visit and had a chance to play some with the girls and meet the coaches,” Barringer said. “I had some other schools interested, but Coach (Carly) Pearce at Averett stood out from everyone, and they’ve got a really good program.”
Averett won the USA South Conference last fall and made its first appearance in the D-III national tournament.
As a D-III school, Averett can’t give athletic scholarships, but it does recruit good players who also are outstanding students. Barringer qualified for a Presidential Scholarship that is worth $65,000 over a four-year period. She plans to enter the athletic training program and will seek a career in physical therapy.
“She’ll be a very good player at the college level, and we’re hoping a lot of her teammates will go on to play in college also,” Neal said. “Katie is athletic and fast, but beyond that she’s got things you really can’t teach. She has a sense of anticipation. She’s got very good soccer instincts.”
Those instincts helped Barringer, who plays on the right wing, score Carson’s first goal each of the past three seasons. This season, Barringer didn’t get the first goal, but she assisted on a goal by Cassie Howard, Coach Howard’s daughter.
Neal described Barringer as a good leader.
“She’s strong-willed, but she will listen, the coaches can talk to her, and then she’ll lead,” he said. “She does a lot for us and she takes a lot on herself. Her teammates respect her. They voted her a captain, and that’s a nod of approval that they want her to lead.”
Barringer was All-NPC the last two years before Carson moved into the South Piedmont. She was all-county as a junior, and this should be her best season of all.