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For Eric Barry, the decision of where to play soccer in college came down to what made the most sense for him, academically and athletically.
The former Downeast Association of Sports for Homeschoolers (DASH) standout realized that he didn’t have to go very far at all to be happy — and that meant joining the Barton College program. After all, Barry played for Bulldogs head coach Ian McMichael on his Wilson Youth Soccer Association team the past few years and Barton assistant coach Steve Barry, who also was the DASH head coach and WYSA assistant, is Eric’s father.
“I’ve grown up here, I’ve always seen Barton play through the years and it’s really cool to have the opportunity,” Eric Barry said in an interview at his home Wednesday after signing his National Letter of Intent to accept Barton’s scholarship offer earlier in the month.
Barry, a 6-foot-1, 168-pound center back, was courted by Barton’s NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas rival North Greenville University as well as Div. II Colorado School of Mines and a pair of Div. III programs, Guilford College and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana. But after much consideration, Barry decided that Barton was the best place to be.
“Barton’s right here at home,” he said. “I’ve played for the WYSA through and through and I’ve honestly really enjoyed Wilson in total and I met Coach Ian through WYSA and I really enjoyed his coaching and getting to know him. That was really helpful in the decision because I really like him. I can’t always bank on the coach but I’m thankful for Coach Ian. The team is competitive. They had an opportunity to go really deep in the Conference Carolinas tournament last season. And academically, it offers what I want as far as mathematics.”
Barry graduated from the Classical Conversations program last spring as a 17-year-old but was taking courses at Nash Community College this past fall semester. Because he’s already done with high school, he has already enrolled at Barton. So far, college life agrees with the son of Steve and Rebecca Barry.
“This semester I decided to throw myself into it a little bit by taking 17 credit hours, so I’m jumping in right away and really getting a feel for it,” he said. “So far I’ve liked it. My classes, when I went to Nash Community College, some of them would take two-and-a-half hours. My longest class is an hour and 15 minutes. Being in class less means there’s more work outside so I’ve had to really work on my time management already, as far as what needs to prioritized and so on and so forth.”
Barry is ahead of the curve when it comes to the rest of the Bulldogs’ signing class, which is far from complete. However, he knows that he’s got some work to do to play at the collegiate level.
“I think for almost everyone, adjusting to the speed of play is one of the major parts,” he said. “The other thing is that I am a center back and I do want to be bulkier. Overall, my awareness on the field as far as when to slide tackle and when to play certain balls — I want to keep improving on that. But as far as the majority, it’s speed of play, getting bigger and just adjusting to the competitiveness of college soccer.”
McMichael is delighted that he will continue to coach Barry.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have Eric join us here at Barton,” McMichael said. “Eric possesses an elite mentality that separates himself from his peers. He has a very strong foundation of skills and athleticism that we are excited to build on.”
Steve Barry praised his son’s leadership skills, noting that he was elected captain by his teammates on DASH and WYSA teams.
“He’s exactly the type of gritty and hard-nosed player that we are looking to add to our squad as we work to improve on our 13 win season from last year,” Steve Barry said.
The elder Barry also noted that the transition from high school and club soccer to college won’t be easy, for the reasons his son outlined.
“We think Eric’s going to fit right in, but that’s up to him,” Steve Barry said. “He’s going to have to go make it happen and work hard to get it, just like all of our other players are.”
For now, Eric Barry is getting adjusted to college life, even if that still means living at home — for now. Barry said that he’s looking at living on campus when the fall semester begins.
“Staying at home is good and bad. It’s nice that I live two miles away!” he said. “I checked it out and it’s quite convenient to be right here. Then again, it’s something I worried about as far as missing out on some of the college life because I’m going to be right here. This is my home that I’ve known forever. It’s not like I got out and went anywhere but I am looking to have that opportunity next semester, staying somewhere on campus (in the fall), so I can have more of that experience of getting away a little bit, even though home is only two miles away, I still kind of want that experience.”