By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Having outscored their opponents by a 37-9 margin, the Oxford Wildcats girls’ soccer program is off to a 6-2 (2-1 Oakland Activities Association White Division) start.
Surrendering just 1.12 goals per game as a team, one of the Wildcats’ standout players has been junior goaltender Brianna Barrows.
Recognized by many as one of the OAA’s best keepers, collegiate coaches have begun to take notice, as well, and on April 20, Barrows took the next step in her life by verbally committing to continue her career as a student-athlete at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.
A National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II institution, the Michigan Tech Huskies compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), the same league where Grand Rapids’ Davenport, Big Rapids’ Ferris State, Allendale’s Grand Valley State, and Sault Ste. Marie’s Lake Superior State reside.
Midland’s Northwood University also presently belongs to the GLIAC but plans to join the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC), effective July 1, 2022.
Barrows’ soccer career first began when she played for the Oxford Soccer Club (OSC) as an eight-year-old, where she was coached by Chad Boyd, the father of two of her current teammates at the high school, junior Carly and freshman Ella Boyd.
Boyd’s name is likely familiar to many in the community, as he is the Principal at Daniel Axford Elementary.
Outside of her spring Wildcat season, Barrows plays for the Nationals Soccer Club, one of the state’s top soccer programs, under head coach Henry Steinwascher.
Following Oxford’s 8-0 victory over the Avondale Yellow Jackets on April 29, The Oxford Leader caught up with Barrows and her parents, Amy and Don, and she shared how this connection with Michigan Tech was formed.
Displaying a strong understanding of the term “student-athlete,” academics played a major role in her decision when looking for her next school.
“I started going to college showcases and we saw their assistant coach there,” Barrows shared. “We started talking and searched them up and saw their programs and I realized they had the one I wanted, which is biomechanical engineering.
“So, I got in touch with the coaches, started e-mailing them, and they said they really liked what they saw. Then, they watched me play and really liked what they saw again, so they asked me to play for them and I said yes.”
Stationed near the top of the Upper Peninsula, Houghton is approximately 520 miles northwest of Oxford, making the trip a roughly eight-hour-and-15-minute drive. With the commute, campus life, and academic facilities all an important part of the college decision-making process, Barrows and her parents visited the campus, where they saw the Huskies defeated the Purdue Northwest Pride, 3-0, on April 18, and received an athletic tour, showcasing all the opportunities available.
Once she had the opportunity to see the campus and team firsthand, Barrows knew this was the spot for her.
While the collegiate decision was ultimately Barrows and her parents’ to make, she also leaned on some guidance from her head coach at Oxford, John Thaler.
Thaler played collegiately in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) for the Western Michigan Broncos, graduating in 1996, making his insight as a Division I student-athlete valuable during this process.
“Coach Thaler, for sure, pushed me and helped me get better throughout the years,” Barrows said.
She also gave credit to Boyd, the man who first encouraged her to become a goalie when she was in elementary school. Based on how Barrows’ career has unfolded thus far, it is safe to say Boyd made the right call.
With the remainder of her junior year and an entire senior season still ahead of her at the prep level, securing her verbal commitment also helps Barrows focus on her goals as a Wildcat, one of which is to help the program capture a district championship.
Another benefit of having a season-plus worth of high school action still available is Barrows can study the Huskies’ games, helping her arrive in Houghton as prepared for the speed of the collegiate game as possible.
“One of her keeper coaches suggested she get some film on Michigan Tech’s games now, so she can see which kind of shots that particular team and coaching style tend to give up,” Don Barrows said. “Then, you can work on those a little extra.”
In accordance with NCAA regulations, Barrows will officially be able to sign her National Letter of Intent (LOI) during the 2021-22 school year, when she will be a senior.
The Huskies, who are coached by Turk Ozturk, rounded out their 2020-21 season at 5-4-1, falling to the reigning Division II national champion Grand Valley State Lakers, 6-3, in the quarterfinals of the GLIAC Tournament on April 27.
As with the men’s game, women’s soccer is a fall sport at the collegiate level. However, the 2020 season was postponed until spring 2021 because of the COVID-19.
By Teddy Rydquist