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All-Decade field hockey spotlight: Lafayette's Kate Barber shattered records, expectations

All-Decade field hockey spotlight: Lafayette's Kate Barber shattered records, expectations

From the All-Decade field hockey series

It had been 30 years since a Missouri public school won a field hockey state championship when junior Kate Barber led her Lafayette team onto the campus of John Burroughs School for the 2011 title game.

Barber, the area leader in goals and assists during the regular season, had scored three times in a stunning upset against MICDS in the semifinals. But early in the championship game against Cor Jesu, Barber severely rolled her ankle and was forced to the sideline.

“It was one of the worst pains ever. I was off the field for a while and it made me so anxious,” Barber said. “I remember my coach kept looking over at me and saying, ‘Can you go in? Are you going back in? Can you go in?’ every two seconds.”

With a taped-up ankle, Barber reemerged, scored the game-winning goal and led the Lancers to the first championship won by a Missouri public school since Parkway North captured the title in 1981.

That season, Parkway North was led by future Olympic field hockey player Mary Koboldt. Barber has not participated in the Olympics, but she has been at the center of several historical achievements throughout her career and has earned the distinction of Post-Dispatch field hockey player of the decade.

Barber’s coach that day, current Villa Duchesne coach Kate Graft, recalled the anxiety of that 2011 championship game.

“When she went off (with the injury), I think people thought it was done and we would lose,” Graft said. “We were able to see how hard it is for a public school (to win state) because typically they have less experienced field hockey players than the private schools. To be able to do that was pretty incredible.”


Lafayette players Danielle Biernacki, Kate Barber, Kelsey Clayman and Hannah Schnieder celebrate their team's 2-0 win over Cor Jesu in the championship of the 2011 Midwest Field Hockey at John Burroughs. (Andrew Jansen |

Barber was even more incredible during her senior season. The Lancers lost 21 seniors to graduation and Barber was one of only two returning starters. She scored 38 goals and added 36 assists, figuring in on an astonishing 91 percent of the goals the team scored, and led the Lancers to an 18-4 record and a return trip to the final four.

“We were all coming off the high of winning state, so it was easy for the seniors to lead the girls moving up to varsity,” Barber said.

Barber began playing field hockey in fourth grade, and by the time she entered Lafayette High School, she was ready to contribute at the varsity level. As a freshman, she led the area with 24 assists. She dished out a decade-high 40 assists as a sophomore and severely out-distanced other area players in both goals and assists during her junior and senior seasons.

In total, she amassed 92 goals, dished out 135 assists and was named an All-American. Her 135 career assists shattered the national high school record and she was featured in the Faces in the Crowd section of the December 3, 2012, edition of Sports Illustrated alongside an Ohio high school quarterback named Mitch Trubisky.

At Indiana University, she proved her versatility and inked her name in the history books. She played the position of center-mid as a freshman and sophomore, played center-back as a junior and then exploded offensively as a senior.

No Hoosiers player has scored more than the 18 goals or distributed more than the 40 assists she produced during the 2016 campaign. She was an All-Big Ten first-team selection, and All-Region first-team selection and a college All-American.

“In college, the level of competition was eye-opening. Everybody is the best and everybody wants to be the best, so it was a gradual moving-up for four years,” Barber said. “But the idea of being a senior helped take the pressure off. I just enjoyed every practice, every game and every moment.”

Barber earned a degree in community health and earned minors in both psychology and global health promotions. After graduation, she traveled overseas to play field hockey in Australia for six months and since has returned to St. Louis to pursue a Master’s degree in nutrition and human performance.

When Graft found out Barber was back in town, she extended an invitation to join the Villa Duchesne coaching staff.

“The thing that made Kate such a great player was that she was always so focused and worked incredibly hard. That is something I still see today when she is helping the girls at Villa,” Graft said.

One player who has benefited from Barber’s expertise has been Taryn Tkachuk, a first-team All-Decade selection and two-time All-Metro player of the year.

“She taught me mentally to not show my emotions if things go bad but to keep pushing and just play my game, and she has taught me some air dribbling elimination skills that I use a lot in my game.” Tkachuk said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her help.”

Tkachuk, a junior who has signed to play field hockey at the University of Virginia, is coming off her own record-setting season. Her 115 points is the highest point total this decade, surpassing the mark of 112 set by Barber in 2012.

“It’s been really nice to see the growth of so many players in the St. Louis area and the growth of the sport as a whole,” Barber said of her time on the Villa Duchesne coaching staff.

And what Barber’s career has given area field hockey players, whether at a public or private school, is the hope that they too can accomplish the seemingly impossible.

“I know it sounds cliché, but it’s really nice to give back to the sport that gave me so much in life.” Barber said.



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