Strikers demand the ball in order to do what they’re best at so – almost by definition – there is an ounce of selfishness that comes with the position. Unless you’re Fuquay-Varina senior Ellie Barnes.
With three coolly-taken, breakaway finishes, the senior scored three goals Wednesday for her second hat trick of the season and lifted the Bengals to a 5-1 Tri-Nine Conference 4A victory against Athens Drive.
But Barnes, a Mount Olive recruit, stays humble even with an area-leading 12 goals this season.
“I’m impressed with my play, but I can’t do it by myself. I’m very fortunate to have such a great team who knows exactly where I’m going to be and what I’m going to do,” Barnes said.
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One of those that knows where Barnes is at all times is fellow senior Hannah Rembach, an Urbana (Oh.) University recruit. Rembach had a hand in four of the team’s goals, and ended the night with three assists.
“Hannah and I have been playing together for quite awhile now,” Barnes said. “She doesn’t even have to look up ... She’ll play me a great ball and I’ll have the knack to finish it.”
The Bengals (4-3, 3-3) were on the board quicker than fans could lean back in their seats to enjoy the perfect spring weather conditions.
After receiving a deep pass, Barnes 1-v-1 shot was denied by Athens goalkeeper Lily John. The rebound kicked out to Rembach, who sent it into the open net.
Athens (1-4-3, 0-4-1) evened the score with 7 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first half, after Emily Newsom sent a corner kick to the back post, where Danielle Gaal, having broken free of her marker, volleyed in the equalizer.
But with just under 2:00 to play in the half, Rembach found Barnes breaking behind the defense. Barnes sent a laser into the left side of the net to give the Bengals a 2-1 lead at halftime.
“We play well when we start well,” Fuquay coach James Mountford said. “We knew coming in that Athens was capable of making the playoffs (from) our conference. And we knew that in order to make the playoffs we were going to have to compete with Athens and come out on top.”
Barnes scored her second goal after taking the ball off a defender who was trying to clear. Her third goal came on a breakaway thanks to another early feed from Rembach.
“We work on a lot of counterattacks, and that’s where I feel we are the strongest,” Barnes said.
Senior defender Brenna Coolbaugh rounded out the Fuquay scoring with 9:31 left as she maneuvered around a young Athens defense, which was coming off an impressive performance Monday night during a 1-0 loss to Apex.
“We’d work the ball into their defensive third and they had very quick counterattacks,” Athens Drive coach Scott St. Clair said. “They finished pretty much every chance they had.”