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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Sandusky Bay Conference Player of the Year, first team North Central District, second-team All-Ohio in Division III, and Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Co-Player of the Year.

Needless to say, it was a fine season for Oak Harbor freshman soccer player Emma Barney.

Barney, who was second on the team with 30 goals and first with 21 assists, was instrumental in leading the Rockets to the state final four for the first time in the program’s history.

In five of the previous 10 seasons, Oak Harbor had advanced to the district final only to lose each time. This year, under Coach Renee Goldstein, the Rockets (19-2-1) got over the hump and won five games in the D-III tournament to make it to the state semifinals.

Along the way, Oak Harbor defeated Central Catholic (5-1), Swanton (2-0), Woodmore (5-0), Continental (3-0) and Liberty-Benton (2-1) before falling to Gates Mills Hawken, 4-1, in the state semfinal.

"I'm definitely really proud of my team because we proved people wrong,” Barney said. “We had never gotten past districts before and it was nice to have people coming out and supporting us.”

It was a rare experience for the community, too, one that has seen few teams advance to the state semifinals in any sport. Oak Harbor has never had a team win a state championship, though the wrestling program has two second place finishes (2008, '10), the boys’ basketball team was Class AA runner-up in 1983 and the football team advanced to the final four twice in '99 and '06.

However, Oak Harbor soccer is not a one-person show. Barney got plenty of help from her teammates, including starting with goalkeeper Ivy Martin. The Rockets, who employed a 2-4-4 formation, started Paige Velliquette (33 goals) and Alexa Weis (17 goals) at forward with Barney, Ally Croy, Amanda Hetrick and Emily Winters (9 goals) at midfield. Perhaps the players who were most instrumental in leading the Rockets to their dream season were the defenders, Karis DeWalt, Hannah Hess, Maddie Rathbun and Noelle Petersen.

Other underclassmen were also critical to the team’s success. Mackenzie Auger (10 goals), Nikki Weis, Brittany Watkins, Emily Kamann, Addie Barton, Tessa Tyburski, Eiriel Davis, Miki Blunt and Gillian Allen helped to provide depth that was necessary for the Rockets to sustain success during a 22-game season.

For their efforts this season, a number of players [(DeWalt, first team All-SBC, first team All-Press, second-team all-district); (Velliquette, first team All-SBC, first team All-Press, first team all-district); (Martin, second team All-SBC, second team All-Press, second team all-district); (Hetrick, second team All-SBC; second team All-Press, second team all-district)] earned honors.

The Rockets will lose three seniors (Hetrick, Hess, Nikki Weis) from this year’s team, but they have a number of young players returning that, with another year’s worth of offseason work, will give them a solid foundation for the 2014 campaign.

Despite being a talented group that was loaded at forward, midfielder, defender and goalkeeper, Barney said what set this group apart was its camaraderie, which she said was instrumental for her being a freshman playing with upperclassmen.

“There was never any drama and we all just got along really well,” Barney said. “Age never mattered. It wasn't unusual to see the older players with the younger players. We became friends with people we thought we'd never become friends with.”

What makes Oak Harbor’s run through the tournament even more impressive was the fact it had to replace seven key seniors (Jordan Giesler, Makayla Carpenter, Amber Burnette, Sidney Allen, Kelsey Lacer, Erin Bryant and Sydney Street) from last year’s team. Barney, and five fellow freshmen who started, were able to fill the void.

“I realized during the summer when I saw Emma and Maddie playing that we could be pretty good this season,” said Goldstein, who earned D-III Coach of the Year honors. “And the girls worked hard and we had a great season because of it. The chemistry with everyone was great.”

What sets Barney apart from others is her commitment to the sport year-round. She plays soccer in the spring and summer and, under the guidance of former head coach Jorge Diaz at the PSC Impact Academy in Perrysburg, developed and enhanced her skills as she’s grown up.

"Well, I played for Jorge Diaz since I was about 10 years old and he definitely helped me a lot by improving my foot skills and having me go against better players,” Barney said. “You can't just quit playing (after fall). You have to keep making yourself better and better and keep getting stronger and (continue to) play.”

This winter, Barney will turn her attention to basketball where she’ll join a talented bunch that went 16-8 and won a game in the sectional tournament last year. Despite losing several key players from last season, the Rockets do feature a very talented group of freshmen that could help that program retool this year, also.

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