EHS girls’ lacrosse player Andie Barnes fights for the ball during a 2017 game against Steinert. (File photo by Martin Griff.)

Andie Barnes will play soccer at Albright College next year, so she’s trying to soak in every moment of her final season of lacrosse.

“I play soccer, that’s more of my main sport,” said the Ewing High School senior. “But I’ve definitely fallen in love with lacrosse too.”

Barnes got her final year of lacrosse off to a quick start with seven goals in the Blue Devils’ first four games, including five goals in a hard-fought 14-11 loss to Nottingham. Last year, Barnes scored three goals the entire season.

“She’s certainly more productive on offense this year,” said Kelly Hammer, the Ewing head coach who flipped coaching duties with last year’s head coach, Leslie Conant. “She’s getting more shooting opportunities. She’s playing up more often than she was last year. And she’s someone the girls trust and look to.”

Barnes is a shining example of the way many Ewing players develop. Like most of her teammates, she didn’t pick up the sport until freshman year, and it wasn’t the easiest of sells.

“A couple weeks before the first day of my freshman year, I was questioning if I wanted to play lacrosse or not,” Barnes said. “One of my friends on the team, Olivia (Ruch), she was asking me about playing and saying, ‘You should at least try and see if you like it or not.’

“I was horrible, but in my mindset I’m not a quitter and I didn’t want to just say, I’m bad so I don’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to see myself progress in playing the game. Over all the years, I’ve continued to come back out and throughout that time I started to fall in love with it.”

In both soccer and lacrosse, Barnes is in a defensive-minded position, but she also carries an attack mentality. When she gets the chance in soccer, she brings the ball forward.

“In my head I find a lot of similarities between soccer and lacrosse,” Barnes said. “But lacrosse is its own sport and it’s so interesting how it works and the positions and how you have to move to play, what the different things are that you have to do to be good at the sport, and I just got drawn to it somehow.”

This year in lacrosse, she’s been able to do the same in lacrosse.

“Andie is ridiculous in the best way,” Hammer said. “She’s got speed, she’s got great strength and power. She has a great eye for the field. She can see plays and make them happen and react off them. She’s a very, very calm centering presence on the field, both offensively and defensively. She’s a great leader. She’s one of our captains. I can’t say enough good things about her.”

Ewing returned a strong core of seniors to build around and a solid supporting class of juniors. The extra experience is something new.

“This is probably the first year in a few years where we didn’t lose so many girls that it’s been a detriment to us,” Hammer said. “We don’t normally pull large teams. We don’t have a middle school program. There’s not a lot of rec support and access. And so for us, our numbers are usually small. When you lose big senior groups, it can work against you.

This year, the team is in a good position, Hammer said. “We have six seniors. We have a solid group of juniors. In fact, when you look at our starting lineup, there’s only two players that don’t have a lot of experience.”

Barnes said she feels like an improved player in her fourth season. “I gained a lot more confidence with my play. I believe in myself more that I can actually do the things I could have always done. I think that’s probably the biggest change between this year and past years.”

Barnes has come a long way in a decade. She got her first look at lacrosse at a young age, but didn’t get to play it for years.

“I remember back in elementary school, my friend’s older sister used to play lacrosse,” she said. “I thought it was interesting, and I remember her showing me her stick and teaching me some things like years before, but I kind of always thought, ‘Lacrosse is really cool, I kind of want to play in high school.’ Then I just did.”

Barnes is hoping to make the most of her final games. “I still see so much potential in us. I was kind of scared because in the last couple years, we lost a lot of strong players, but I always have to remind myself that the people that are still here are getting stronger. Once we played our first couple scrimmages and games, I thought, we are really good and we’re just going to keep getting better throughout this season.”

Her own development has helped make her into a stronger leader on the field. She is someone that shares her knowledge thanks to her newfound confidence.

“That helps other people have trust in me and believe that I know what I’m talking about,” Barnes said. “Building my own confidence and building my own skill helps me be a better teammate and leader on the field for the rest of the girls, I think that’s my biggest improvement in the sport overall.”

The Ewing coaching staff has been impressed with the way Barnes has come along over the years. They are thrilled to see her producing more.

“She’s our D wing and she’s tied as our highest goal scorer for the season,” Hammer said. “That’s a real testament to how hard she works on both ends of the field. She’s great on defense. She’s got good body position, she looks for the check first, she’s great with turnovers and ground ball pick-ups. But I also trust her as soon as she has possession, I don’t have any doubts that she’ll be able to produce, whether it’s a connecting passes or a shot at the cage.”

Barnes is trying to do all she can to help the push Ewing to a good year. She wants to make the most of her last season of lacrosse.

“It definitely drives a lot of what I do,” Barnes said. “It’s my senior year and it’s my last high school sports season forever. It makes me want it more than I have in the past.”