Before and during her first-ever game as a Northside freshman soccer player, Kennedy Barnett was predictably nervous.
"When I started as a ninth-grader, it was terrifying and I just cried that (first) game and I did not want to be out on the field," Barnett said.
"I was afraid that I wasn't going to be as good as everybody else, but then I thought I didn't have to worry about it because I'm going to be sitting on the bench. And then I was sitting bench for varsity and I got put in because I'm aggressive. All I could think about was, 'How am I going to mess up?'"
But once she saw playing time, Barnett's confidence grew from there.
Now as a senior defensive stopper along with being a four-year starter, Barnett is a team co-captain. She's also not shy about expressing her opinions to her teammates.
"Yes (I'm a vocal leader); I talk a lot. ... Sometimes, I need it, I need to be told what I'm doing wrong, but you can do it in a way where you can help someone and not degrade them," Barnett said.
"Really, off the field, I work really hard in raising confidence. I want the other girls here that are younger not to feel (like Barnett did when she was a freshman). ... On the field, help in a positive way, (using) constructive criticism. To be a leader, but not to be a boss, because to me there's a difference."
Barnett is also eager for the Lady Bears to improve in her final season with the team. Although the Lady Bears dropped their 7A-Central opener, 2-0, at home to Bryant on Tuesday, Barnett believes they have shown improvement from last season, when Northside won just one conference game.
"We've already seen a lot of improvements," Barnett said. "Yes, we made some mistakes during the (Fort Smith Invitational, which was played earlier this month), but we learned what they are and pinpointed them. ... We know what we need to do, and I think we're going to do good.
"For sure, the goal is to do better than last year. If we lose, that's one thing, but lose playing our best. I don't want to lose a game because we make mistakes that we know that are obvious, that we could fix."
Barnett is excited about this season's squad for another reason. She's glad to have her coach, Mauricio Maciel, back coaching the girls team.
Maciel, also the Northside boys coach, coached the Lady Bears in Barnett's first two seasons but stepped away from the team in Barnett's junior year to fully concentrate on coaching the boys. But Maciel is doing double duty once again, and Barnett couldn't be any happier.
"It's one of the most important factors for sure and it's really helped us a lot because he's what made our team have chemistry," Barnett said. "He's the one that brought us all together and then taught us what it's like to have a family.
"Then we lost him and we got him back. ... We were all really excited, just because it's someone that's familiar and we all know that he's the best coach here, so definitely (I'm) very happy."
Likewise, Maciel said he is glad to be coaching a player of Barnett's caliber again. Even though she may not have the stats, as she has never scored a goal in her Northside career and has just one assist so far this season.
"She does a lot of the dirty work," Maciel said. "She's the first defender most of the time and she gives me a lot of confidence because I know that if they're going to have to go through her, they're going to have to play extra good to go through her.
"She's been leading even before she was a senior and a captain for us. People have been looking up to her for a long, long time, I don't know whether she knows that or not, but people have been looking up to her. ... You can just always depend on her."
Barnett is currently ranked eighth in her senior class with a 4.2 grade-point average. She plans to attend the University of Arkansas and study veterinary medicine, and is currently doing an internship at a veterinarian's office.
Also, she has plenty of animals to take care of in her home. Among other pets, she has two dogs, one cat, a rabbit, an iguana, a snake, a tarantula and a turtle.
Over time, Barnett has learned to embrace her role on the team playing defense and is totally fine with letting her teammates get the goals or the big plays on offense.
"It's grown on me; I used to hate (playing stopper)," she said. "It's a difficult position in my opinion because it's defense, so in big terms, block the goals, but it's also midfield, so you have to push up and try and score goals, so I'm the person that assists, I make plays. ... I'm the person that helps other people get stats."
Northside (1-3-1, 0-1) will be playing at home again on Thursday as the Lady Bears take on Little Rock Central.
Bryant 2, Northside 2
(Bryant wins on penalty kicks, 4-2)
BOYS — The Grizzlies seemed to be on their way to taking Tuesday's 7A-Central opener as Northside built a 2-0 lead in the second half.
But the Hornets came back and tied the score with less than nine minutes left in regulation, as the game went into the penalty kick shootout. Bryant then made two of its first three penalty kicks, while Northside wasn't able to convert a single goal in four tries as the Hornets escaped Mayo-Thompson Stadium with the win.
Jason Mendoza put the Grizzlies (2-3-1, 0-1) on the board first with a shot which hit inside the left corner of the net with more than 16 minutes left in the first half. Then 10 minutes into the second half, Jose Paredes made it 2-0 with a goal.
Bryant answered nearly four minutes later with a goal before eventually tying the score near the end of regulation.