She has won an A-10 Offensive Player of the Year award, represented her native Ireland in international play and even been nominated for an ESPY, but “living as a muggle” is what excites Rebecca Barry most about this coming offseason, her final one at University of Richmond.
After helping Richmond avenge playoff losses in the two previous seasons by beating rival UMass in the A-10 Championship last Saturday, she can now relax having overcome this obstacle.
As if by fate, the ball found its way to Barry in sudden-death overtime in that championship game and she made the most of it, making a quick move past the last defender and flicking a hard shot past the UMass goalie. It was only fitting that Barry, who came through time and time again with clutch plays throughout the Spiders’ season, was the one to seal their biggest win of the season.
Barry hardly fits the mold of a “muggle,” a term taken from the Harry Potter series to describe the ordinary people of the world. Her storied field hockey career did not start in the U.S., but in Ireland when she was seven years old. She has stood out ever since.
Her mother, Lucy, and grandmother both played field hockey for the same high school as Barry, the powerhouse Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ in Ireland. Despite a strong lineage of field hockey players before her and her high school’s inescapable field hockey culture, Barry insists that playing field hockey was always her own decision.
“When I was 14 or 15, I stopped playing other sports so I could devote all of my focus toward field hockey,” Barry said, adding that she did not have time for anything else.
Her love of the game and dedication to improving came to fruition early when she was named to the Irish national U16 team. She followed that up by making the U17 and U18 teams in the next few years as well, and becoming the captain of the U18 by her last season.
Despite her prominence in Ireland, Richmond did not get to her until late in the recruiting process.
“I was going to go to college back home -- about 20 minutes from where I lived,” Barry said. “Coach Ryan [Elliot, former associate head coach,] contacted me out of the blue for the first time in April of my senior year.” She emphasized that many things had to fall into place to make the commitment to Richmond possible, but she knew it would be worth it once she did.
While many college freshmen have apprehensions about going to college in a different part of the country, Barry had to cross an ocean to start her next chapter. Field hockey was at the center of the transition -- one she came to embrace over time.
Regardless, Barry had to make adjustments to succeed on her new team.
“We ran a lot in a lot of heat so that was definitely an adjustment I had to make, and a challenging one at that,” Barry said, describing her freshman season. She also talked about the American emphasis on conditioning as well as a more rigorous practice schedule than she had had in Ireland, all confounded with juggling more difficult schoolwork than ever before.
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Overall though, the transition went smoothly, which Barry attributed to her coaches and teammates.
“Other than the heat, it was an easy transition because of people like Coach Ryan and the seniors at the time who were very welcoming,” Barry said. “I was also fortunate enough to fall into a team of friends instantly.”
As a freshman, Barry showed flashes of greatness and leadership potential, but teammate Kelley Wentling said Barry had grown “astronomically” during the past four years.
“You could see she had the attributes of a leader as a freshman,” Wentling said. “But this year she’s had the chance to implement them, and she’s done a fantastic job.”
Barry is too humble to speak about her own impact on the team as a leader, but she beamed about the seniors on the team as a whole.
“They were a great example for what the younger girls should become,” Barry said of the other seniors on the team. “I think it creates a platform for success because the senior class really does influence so much of what happens on a team.”
While Barry might not admit it at first, she is primarily responsible for a winning culture on this Richmond team because of her role as captain. For Barry, it was never about the stats or the individual awards, but rather winning games for her school and leaving the program better off than she found it.
Nevertheless, it would be remiss to ignore her impressive numbers.
Barry ends her college career as Richmond’s leader in points (142) and second-highest goal-scorer (59). She also tied the school record for most goals scored in a single game with five in her senior game against Davidson.
Barry’s teammates appreciated that her scoring abilities allowed her to shoulder the load when she needed to.
When asked what it is like to play behind the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, Wentling said: “The better question is: ‘What’s it like to play against her in practice?’” Barry’s skill set prepares Wentling in practice for anything she might have to face in a real game, and Barry’s competitive spirit fuels her own motivation to improve, Wentling said. She also said that as a goalie, it could take some pressure away knowing that even if she was not at her best, Barry could still keep the team in the game.
With all of Barry’s accolades and accomplishments, she is ready for the next chapter in her life after a hard-fought loss to Liberty in the first round of the NCAA tournament ended her career.
“I’m going to spend at least a year in Ireland after I graduate to be with my family who I’ve been away from for four years,” Barry said. “From there, I’ll get back up on my feet and find what it is I want to do.” She hinted at a possible return to the U.S.
In the meantime, Barry will enjoy the last semester of her college career at Richmond, experiencing America as a student one last time before returning to Ireland. Richmond field hockey will be sad to see her go, but her relaxation is earned. Rebecca Barry can finally lead her life as a muggle.
Contact reporter Walter Abrams at firstname.lastname@example.org
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