Sept. 9, 2003
By Jamail Buchanan
Amazing...that is the appropriate word to use when describing redshirt junior Nicole Barnhart, the goalkeeper for the Stanford women's soccer team. How else can you describe a person who had one of Stanford's all-time greatest seasons at goalkeeper only one year removed from a disheartening ACL injury?
In 2002, Barnhart started all 23 games at goal for the Cardinal, enjoying a banner season while accumulating 2,047 minutes of playing time. With a 0.18 goals against average and by only allowing four goals all season, the record for fewest goals allowed in the Pac-10 in a season, Barnhart became the nation's top goalkeeper. She also tallied 59 saves and a school-record 18 shutouts. Barnhart surrendered only one score in Pac-10 play, setting another conference mark and earning First-Team NSCAA All-American, First-Team West Region and All-Pac 10 honors.
A year such as Barnhart's 2002 campaign is unbelievable considering the unfortunate circumstances of rehabilitating a torn ACL for over eight months.
"Thankfully the rehab on the ACL went extremely well," Barnhart said. "A large reason why was because of my great group of physicians and all of the emotional support that I received from my family, teammates and coaches. My mindset after the injury was to work hard during rehab and get to the field as quickly as possible. I couldn't believe how well I recovered."
After sitting out the 2001 season in recovery, Barnhart came back with a focus and determination to prove her skills and help the Cardinal win games. Stanford finished its 2002 campaign with a 21-2-0 overall record and claimed the Pac-10 title with a perfect 9-0-0 mark. Eventually, Stanford lost to Portland in the Quarterfinal Round of the NCAA Tournament.
From statistics alone, it is obvious that Barnhart is an integral part to the success of the Cardinal squad. Being a leader on one of the best soccer teams in the nation can be daunting, but Barnhart handles it well by putting everything into perspective.
"The proper formula for success is to work hard everyday and to be a leader by example, both on and off of the field," Barnhart said.
Barnhart not only performs well on the field, but also in the classroom. She was selected as a Third-Team NSCAA/adidas Women's Collegiate Scholar All-American last season. In addition, she garnered Honorable Mention Academic All-Pac 10 accolades. She holds a 3.40 grade-point average while double majoring in studio art and psychology. Ultimately, Barnhart would like to be a graphic artist in advertising or marketing.
Handling the Stanford academic environment alone requires serious time management. The difficulty compounds when being a full-time athlete and student.
"I do better academically during the season than when I am not in season because my life is more structured," Barnhart said. "I basically practice, play and study."
When deciding on what school to attend, Barnhart narrowed her choices down to Stanford and UNC- Chapel Hill. Both Stanford and UNC offer amazing soccer programs, but Stanford edged out UNC in the end.
"I fell in love with Stanford during my visit," Barnhart said. "Everything just felt right. Here you have not only a great athletic department, but also fine academics. This place had a great athletic-academic appearance."
After being defeated by Portland in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last year, Barnhart made some plans for the upcoming season, to win the 2003 NCAA championship.
"Anything short of a championship would be a huge disappointment," Barnhart said. "We have the players and the chemistry to be the best team in America. It is our championship to lose."
As for herself, she hopes to maintain the level of play that made her one of the most feared players last season.
"I just hope to continue playing at a high level each and every game, focusing on one game at a time," Barnhart said. "Hopefully, I can help my team win it all. That would be a dream come true."
Hailing from Gilbertsville, Penn., Barnhart competed for the Boyington High School men's soccer team. She was a member of the Under-18 U.S. National Team the year that the team won the gold at the Adidas Cup. Barnhart also played basketball and was honored as an All-American in lacrosse as a prep. During the summer of 2003, Barnhart competed with the Under-21 National and Nordic Cup Soccer Teams.
"I have a feeling that all of this hard work is going to pay off big time this year in the form of a championship," Barnhart said.