With 10 goals allowed already, junior goalkeeper Grace Barnard will probably not threaten the goals-against single-season record. It’s alright though. Stats don’t bother goalkeepers because, as Barnard’s Head Coach John Daly puts it, “Goalkeepers have to be a little bit crazy.”
But as crazy as it may have seemed after the first game of the season, Barnard has become an integral part of the Tribe defense. In fact, Barnard has become one of the better keepers in the country and is turning in a quietly historical year for the Tribe.
Her season could not have started worse. After a preseason in which Daly questioned her conditioning, Barnard allowed 3 goals against UNC-Charlotte, including one she facilitated by kicking the ball to a Charlotte forward 20-yards away from the net on a goal-kick.
“I just don’t think we were 100 percent focused going into the game,” Barnard said. “I usually don’t mess up on my goal kicks. [It was] new cleats, maybe.”
Maybe it was nerves. After coming to the College as one of the top 100 players in the country, Barnard sat on the bench for two years behind the recently graduated Meaghan Walker. Although many schools promised the Syracuse native a four-year starting spot, Barnard decided to learn from watching Walker instead and developed a relationship with the upperclassman.
“Meaghan was a great goalkeeper. I definitely learned a lot working with her. It was a great experience,” Barnard said. “We still keep in touch actually. She actually came to our tournament [at George Mason] and I got to talk to her. She’s a fun girl, really nice and has a good work ethic.”
After playing the understudy to Walker the last two seasons, Barnard now holds the lead role, with senior Jackie Bowman, sophomore Katherine Yount and freshman Carla Manger waiting in the wings behind her. But just as Barnard and Walker became close, the current crop of goalkeepers has become a tight-knit flock as well.
“We have this saying, ‘Ducks fly together’ between the goalkeepers,” Barnard said. “Sometimes there will be practices where the field players get to goof around and play handball and the keepers will be doing this really intense drill…and it totally kills you and you’re dead.
“And we all hear them laughing and someone out of the blue will say, ‘Ducks fly together,”
Since the first game of the season, no one has flown higher than Barnard. Named CAA Player of the Week after a week in which she allowed one combined goal versus BYU and Utah, Barnard has given up 7 goals in her last 11 games. Her .829 goals-against average places her 72nd in the country. However, if you exclude her first game of the season, Barnard’s goals-against average would be .636, good for 34th in the country.
Barnard says her success can be directly attributed to her ability to lead at the net.
“I feel like sometimes being a goalkeeper is like being the quarterback of a football team,” Barnard said. “You can see everything that’s going on in front of you so you direct your team…I feel like I do a lot of directing [in goal].”
Her work has paid off as Barnard has 6 shutouts to her name already this season. Another shutout would tie her for sixth all-time in shutouts for a season in school history and place her within reach of Walker’s season-high of 10 shutouts.
Whereas versus Charlotte when she might have felt butterflies in her stomach, Barnard has shown she now welcomes the pressure of being the Tribe’s number-one goalie.
“I like the pressure oddly enough. I think it helps me perform because my team depends on me,” Barnard said. “I’m relying on myself to come up with the big save or be that factor that helps us get a shutout or win.”