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Girls’ soccer: How Skylar Lee is using her softball skills to lead as a goalkeeper
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Skylar Lee was born with a smile on her face and it’s never left.

Lee is a soft-spoken Bryan County senior who makes everyone around her feel comfortable and at ease. Pleasant and nice to a fault, inside burns a fierce competitor who plays two positions in her chosen sports that require toughness and grit: catcher in softball and goalkeeper in soccer.

As a catcher who also played third base—another demanding position—on the Redskins’ highly successful softball teams she was an all-region pick who has signed to play at Georgia State College and University.

As a goalkeeper she has played an integral role in Bryan County’s resurgence in soccer which has seen it qualify for the state playoffs for the second straight year following a 1-0 win over Woodville-Tompkins. With its next win—surely to come with six games remaining—the Redskins (6-5-1) will set a school record for most wins in a season.

The school started playing soccer in 2014 and it’s been a difficult stretch as there are no youth programs with players not taking up the sport until middle school.

“I started playing in the seventh grade,” Lee said. “I’ve been playing softball forever.”

Lee is one of four seniors on the roster. The others are Amber Gray, Lexi Clark and Ava Prater.

“Coach (Kristen) Barnhill has really turned things around,” Lee said of Coach Kristen Barnhill who is in her third year. “We didn’t do very well at all my freshman year but while sometimes the scoreboard might not show it we’re doing some really good things this year.”

The Redskins are currently in second-place in the Region 3A-DI race, one game behind Metter. They will play Metter at home on March 22 which is also their next game.

To win a region championship is somewhat unthinkable as would be hosting a state playoff game but they remain real possibilities. The Redskins are definitely in the hunt following the win over the Wolverines which moved them into second-place, one game behind Metter.

Like a quarterback in football, Lee is a leader in both of her sports and plays a position in each which enables her to be the only player on the field to see everything taking place.

“They’re actually a lot alike,” Lee said of being a catcher and goalie. “You’re the last line of defense in both. There’s a lot that goes into playing the positions.

“Softball really helps me a lot as a goalie because of the blocking and kind of seeing the motion of the ball when it’s coming at me,” Lee said. “As a goalie you have a ball coming at you and you don’t know where it’s going. In softball you know where the ball is going.

“Catching is more challenging, I think, because you have to talk to the entire field the entire game. As a goalie everyone mostly knows where they’re supposed to be and they’re constantly moving.”

Barnhill has taken the soccer program to new heights and Lee has been an important part of the team’s improvement.

“It takes a mental toughness to be there and take the beating they get day in and day out,” said Barnhill when asked what it took to be a goalie. “You’ve got to have the wants. It’s all got to be there.

“Skylar is smart back there. I think playing softball has helped her with her angles and things like that. She’s working hard to get better this year. I think she’s doing a great job for us.”

Barnhill, it should be noted, is also a former goalie. She played at Maryland when the Terps were in the Atlantic Coast Conference which was, and still is, one of the top conferences in the country in women’s soccer. The Terps program was a constant in national rankings and NCAA appearances during her playing days.

“Soccer hasn’t been taken seriously here,” Lee said. “Making the playoffs like we have the last two years might motivate some people. The teams we’re playing (Region 3) soccer is much more ingrained than it is here. Hopefully we seniors are helping to change that.”



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