Barnes looking to grow during offseason


File Photo | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern forward Zenaya Barnes boots the ball downfield in Eastern’s 3-0 win over Illinois Springfield Aug. 22 at Lakeside Field. Barnes had an assist and three shots in the game with one shot on goal.

Nick Bays, Women's Soccer Reporter

After another year of competitive play, Eastern’s Women’s Soccer Team wrapped up play after an OVC tournament appearance that saw them bounced in a close first-round loss. 

The season is over, and now the players are getting back to work to prepare for the 2022 campaign.

Any team’s off-season provides a time for reflection and for growth. The Panthers have a lot to reflect on this year. After showing promise throughout the year, they were able to do just enough to make it in the OVC tournament with a 2-5-1 conference record.

Junior forward Zenaya Barnes said she was happy with the team’s performance this season. 

“I am so proud of our team for making it that far into the season,” Barnes said. “Making the playoffs isn’t an easy thing to do but we were able to come together and make it happen. Overall, I think we have grown so much as a team from possessing the ball, to being confident on the ball and leaving it all on the field till the 90th minute.”

Eastern did play with a multitude of first-year and sophomore players in their last campaign. They’ll be looking to continue the growth of every player and have the older players truly come into their form.

“I think we all are happy with how much we have grown,” Barnes said. “But we know our potential and know that we can do so much more.”

With Eastern being featured in the OVC tournament consistently over the past few years, the focus is about improving and developing in whatever ways possible to become one of the OVC’s top contenders.

“There’s always something to work on especially with the game of soccer and we’re all ready to get back to work for next season,” Barnes said. “This off-season we are going to continue to focus on the big and small details that are going to make us better players… we focus on big and small details to get better.”

While the team is looking to develop as a whole, Barnes is specifically looking to get back into top playing form. Although Barnes was named to All-OVC honors for her goal contributions this year, she did suffer a knee injury that kept her out for the final part of the season.

“My focus for this off season is recovering and taking care of my knee,” Barnes said. “It’s going to take a lot of grind physically and mentally, but I know it’ll be worth it when I step back on the field with my team!”

Even though the off season is a time for improvement, reflection, and development, there’s still time for fun.

“The off-season is also a good time to have fun and just enjoy the game without any pressure,” Barnes said. “Bring able to play a sport with people who have the same love of the game as you do is an awesome feeling.”

Both Barnes and Panthers head coach Jake Plant have echoed the ideology of player development and have both expressed their satisfaction with the team’s attitude and passion. The confidence both have in the team portrays the possibility of a bright, promising, and competitive future for the Panthers.

For Barnes, that future will include Eastern finding the back of the net more often. 

“With this team, I feel like we will be able to score a lot more in games and just become strong overall players,” Barnes said. “My personal goal and team goals are to get healthy, score more goals, and make it past the first round of the playoffs.”

Time will tell whether this promising future comes to fruition. However, Panther spirits seem to be high this off-season. The attitude to grow and get better reflect that of a team who wants to compete at the highest level. The 2022 campaign looks to be an exciting one for this Panther squad.


Nick Bays can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].