August 22, 2018

Hitting the Field for Princeton Women’s Soccer, PDS Grad Barbara Achieving Lifelong Dream

SAVING GRACE: Grace Barbara makes a save as she trains for her freshman season for the Princeton University women’s soccer team. Former Princeton Day School standout goalie Barbara started preseason training last week for the Tigers as they prepare to open their 2018 season with a game at New Hampshire on August 24.

By Bill Alden

Grace Barbara knew before entering high school that she would have plenty of options when it came to playing soccer in college.

“My recruiting process really started in 8th grade; I was getting pressured by a lot of D-I schools to commit in my freshman year,” said Barbara, who starred at goalie from day one when she joined the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team as a freshman in 2014. “A lot of kids these days are trying to jump on their first offer.”

Barbara, though, didn’t jump at those offers. “Princeton has always been my dream and I wanted to hold off to see if it would be interested in me,” said Barbara, who was considering other Ivy League schools and was getting pursued by Big 10 and ACC programs.

That patience paid off as Barbara ultimately committed in May, 2016 during the spring of her sophomore year at PDS to attend Princeton University and join its women’s soccer team.

“I wanted to go to an institution that could help me both academically and athletically; somewhere where I would fit in, and I knew that would be Ivy League, specifically Princeton,” said Barbara. “My process could have ended my freshman year, but I decided to hold off and really make it the best decision for me.”

Last week, Barbara started preseason training for the Tigers as they prepare to open their 2018 season with a game at New Hampshire on August 24.

Spending time at Princeton this summer has reinforced Barbara’s sense that she made the right college decision.

“I love it here, I would not want to be at any other place. I am truly happy when I am on campus,” said Barbara.

“It humbles me; it really makes me realize how lucky and privileged I am to be able to attend such an academic and athletic centric institution. To be playing sports here is really amazing.”

Barbara was very happy with her PDS experience. “PDS definitely gave me a lot of confidence and the opportunity to fill some big shoes and step up and mature very quickly,” said Barbara, who was a three-time All-Prep selection as she helped the Panthers win three straight Prep B titles.

“That is what I feel high school and college soccer does; it throws you into to an environment in which you are playing against kids who could be four years older than yourself.”

Displaying her maturity, Barbara came up big in the 2016 season as PDS went 17-1-4, winning the Prep B crown and making it to the Mercer County Tournament title game.

“My junior season was really an eye-opening experience for me,” said Barbara.

“Even though I was not a captain, I stepped into a big leadership role when we beat Pennington on penalty kicks (in the MCT semis). A lot of records were broken, it was 17 shutouts in 22 games.”

In club soccer, Barbara assumed a big role for her Player Development Academy (PDA), helping it win the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) U16 national championship in the summer of 2016.

“The thing about PDA is that everyone shared a common goal; we were all ready to take that next step to college soccer,” said Barbara, who was not allowed to play her senior season at PDS due to academy system rules promulgated by the U.S. Soccer Federation that prevent players from competing for both high school and club programs.

“The club as a whole is very centric of pushing players but on my team. In particular, all of us were really pushing towards college soccer. My entire team ended up going D-I and a lot of us went high level D-I, whether Ivy League or ACC.”

Not playing for PDS last fall gave Barbara the opportunity to head over to the Roberts Stadium to follow her future team as Princeton won the 2017 Ivy League title and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.

“I joked that they are going to be tired of me before I even start; I attended every home game and I talked to the coaches a ton,” said Barbara.

“I pass them in Princeton all of the time and they already know who I am. It is also good because college is a transition and I already have my support system in place. I am going to have 25 best friends when I get on campus.”

Playing at Princeton also gives Barbara’s top
supporters, her parents, the chance to see her in college.

“I am an only child and my family has been at every single game ever since I started soccer,” said Barbara, a native of Yardley, Pa.

“My parents have always been on the sidelines cheering me on. They are my whole support system and I couldn’t go too far away from them. I still wanted them to hold my hand a little bit at the beginning of my collegiate career and be able to see the woman that I have become.”

As Barbara starts her
Tiger career, she is amenable to playing a supportive role at first.

“I am a competitive player. I would love to be on the field, but that is not everything for me,” said Barbara.

“I just want to contribute to the team in any way that I can. I definitely want to come into the goalkeeping corps where there will be four of us, including myself, and I want to push them but equally I want to learn from them. I am excited to continue to work with Jami Kranich, who is our assistant coach and goalkeeper coach who played at Villanova and in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) for the Boston Breakers.”

Having displayed patience in her recruiting process, Barbara is chomping at the bit to finally get in action for Princeton.

“I am super excited, I have been waiting for this for two years now,” said Barbara.

“The coaches have invested a lot of their time and energy on me; it is my time to return that to them and help them build their program. Hopefully this year, we make it to the final four.”