“The girls had a desire to win a state championship,” stated Towns County third year head coach John Cornett about his girls soccer team.
“When you have a group that wants that task to happen, you know something special is going to take place.”
Indeed it did. For seven of the past eight seasons, this program has made the state playoffs. But this year, the girls notched their first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, were state ranked in the top-10 and won nine games. All part of arguably the best season in school history.
The Lady Indians took down Christian Heritage in the opening round by a 5-0 score, advancing to the Sweet 16. Walker, playing at home, won 5-0 to close Towns County’s season.
While the future of the program, much like its recent past, is bright, it’s bittersweet to turn the page with the departure of a solid senior class led by Brooke Barrett, Towns County’s all-time leading scorer.
Barrett tallied 27 goals and 16 assists, and is heading to Georgia Southern to play at the Division-I level this fall.
“I don’t think we’ll ever replace Brooke,” exclaims Cornett. “That’s a special player. You get those players maybe once every 15 years — a dominant player like that.”
While that is true, Cornett does feel like some factors make the future even brighter, despite losing a talent like Barrett.
“The future of our program is very bright, and a large part of that is that GHSA has decided to separate 1A soccer between private and public,” says Cornett about the upcoming 2019 season. “I wish it would have happened this year,” he says. All can echo that sentiment, as it would have been nice in Barrett’s senior year to play against a more even field.
“We do have a few that will come back and transition into the role of Brooke [as leaders],” adds Cornett on looking ahead to next year’s team.
While it wasn’t the perfect storybook ending of a state title, Barrett claims she doesn’t second-guess anything.
“I don’t have any regrets because every time I stepped out on the field, it was 100%,” says Barrett with surety. “Every game we give it our all.”
The Lady Indians’ seniors were glad to have made state their first three years in the program, but prior to the 2018 season, the whole team set out for more.
“All 18 of us were driven,” says Barrett. “We had a goal at the beginning of the season — to make it to the second round of the playoffs. We finally completed that goal and we just made history.”
Barrett, who began playing soccer at age six, also played club soccer for Atlanta Fire. This required three to four nights per week of her parents driving her to Atlanta for games and getting back at 11 p.m. just in time for her to get some sleep and do it again the next day.
Weekends meant eight-hour drives or flights to games, even playing as far as Arizona, Seattle and twice in Italy. Hats off to Barrett’s parents, Tim and Amy, and Barrett’s Honda Accord, which she says has nearly 200 thousand miles on it and it’s “not that old.”
While some may wonder if it’s worth it, the Barrett family never will as it has paid off. Barrett began being recruited as an eighth grader by the University of Kentucky. Barrett rattled off names of others who came calling — UGA, Louisville, The Citadel, Western Kentucky and many others including Georgia Southern. It was the latter that stole her heart and prompted her to commit verbally prior to her junior season.
While the stats are nice, the numbers will be forgotten. What will be remembered most is Brooke Barrett the person, and as to that legacy, she has made her mark.
“It shows that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything,” says Barrett. “People told me ‘you’re too short,’ ‘you’re not good enough,’ ‘you’re never gonna go far,’ and ‘Aww…Towns County, that’s just not good enough.'”
Barrett didn’t listen. “You can achieve anything, no matter where you’re at. Proving them wrong is a good feeling,” she adds with a smile.
While we all have naysayers, there’s not many who have met Brooke Barrett who has any doubt that she will do very well — and then some — at Georgia Southern…on and off the field.