Saturday, September 23

A camaraderie with deep roots in soccer

As Kylie Wright recalls, it was well past midnight, and the suspect bird outside of her window refused to quiet down.

“It was just so loud,” she said. “It would go off at 11 o’clock at night until three in the morning, and I just could not sleep with noises like that.”

Irritated and sleep-deprived, Wright went across the hall to seek refuge in the room of her teammate, Lauren Barnes.

With the absence of the intrusive chirps replaced by the presence of her best friend, Wright found more than just peace of mind, laughing away her frustrations late into the night.

As it turns out, this was quite a repeated occurrence, but to this day, those sleepless yet mirthful nights still induce a good chuckle in the two friends.

“I don’t even know, I think the government just put (the bird) there,” Wright said before she and Barnes burst into a fit of laughter.

The two juniors’ ability to make light of a trying situation together serves as a testament to the tight friendship that bonds them.

“We’re super close,” Barnes said. “It’s like we’re in each other’s head because we do exactly the same things.”

Given that they are current roommates and fellow third-year history students, it’s a surprise that their friendship doesn’t date back to infancy.

Rather, the roots of such camaraderie took shape when the two players, then 11 years old, were first acquainted at the tryouts for the Olympic Development Program, but it wasn’t until both joined the National Team Program for the first time at the Under-15 level that the friendship blossomed.

Being part of the program meant having to spend a lot of time on the road and in different countries, which naturally brought Barnes and Wright closer together.

“It has always been easier having your sister there with you,” Barnes said. “It wasn’t as bad as going on a trip by ourselves. We always had each other.”

That was especially the case for Wright, who initially had difficulty coming to grips with the prospect of being away from home for an extended period of time.

“I remember I would cry three or four days prior to actually leaving on my trips,” she said. “But just having that person who you can confide in and who makes you laugh was amazing. Lauren and I are extremely close … and we treat each other like family, so having her there during those times was definitely helpful.”

And then there was the summer of 2007, when, once again, Barnes and Wright teamed up, this time as members of the U-20 team that traveled to Brazil to play in the Pan American Games. It so happened that they were joined and coached by another fellow Bruin: coach Jillian Ellis.

“They were both so easygoing, and they complemented each other very well; just two of the sweetest, nicest people you could meet,” Ellis recalled.

And it was at this time that Barnes and Wright’s soon-to-be collegiate coach gave the dynamic duo the first of two nicknames.

“Jill was like, “˜Oh my gosh, you two are always together, you girls are connected at the hip. We need to make a nickname for you,’” Wright said.

And so, “Klue” was born, as in “lu,” short for “Lauren,” flanked by “K” and “e,” the first and last letters of “Kylie.”

But the moniker would not last long. Instead, it was succeeded by “Lucky.” Broken down, the name consists of “Lu,” “c” and “ky,” as in “Lu” connected to “Ky,” short for “Kylie.”

“I have it tattooed on my right foot because I’m right-footed, and (Barnes) has it tattooed on her left foot because she’s left-footed,” Wright said. “And we both feel very lucky to be in each other’s lives.”

That fortuitous connection has come through time and time again, even during the most challenging of circumstances. Last year, Barnes suffered through nagging health issues that kept her down throughout the season, while this season, Wright missed five games due to a foot injury, the first major injury of her career.

“It was a big struggle for me, but Kylie was always there,” Barnes said. “I keep to myself a lot, so it was easier having her as my roommate and just a lot easier to talk to somebody.”

Likewise, Wright agreed that throughout her own rehabilitation regimens, Lucky was often the best remedy.

“It’s always hard for me to go to treatment, even though I know that I have to,” Wright said. “But (Barnes) was always pushing me, saying “˜If you want to get back on the field, you have to go through treatment and get better.’”

“And if I was having a bad day and just felt like crying, she was always there to listen and lend a hand.”

Today, despite rather low-key personalities, the two athletes have played an integral part in the Bruins’ success as the team continues its postseason journey, Barnes as a starting defender and Wright as a starting midfielder.

“Right off from the very beginning, I knew that they were two players who would impact our program,” Ellis said. “Lauren reads the game as well as anyone I’ve ever coached … and Kylie has evolved into a player who we can’t afford to take off of the field.

“They’re having big roles for us this year, but next year, as part of the oldest class, I think that they are going to be spectacular leaders for us.”

Even in a locker room chock-full of talent, the contributions of Barnes and Wright on the field don’t go unnoticed.

“Oh, they’re so valuable,” senior forward and second-leading scorer Lauren Cheney said. “Lauren is an unbelievable outside back, and Kylie is the engine of our team. Without either of them, we would be pretty lost.”

Off the field, it’s much of the same story.

“I love them both so much,” senior defender Dea Cook said. “They’re so fun, and they’re so sweet. Their personalities are so caring and thoughtful. I know that these are words that a lot of people say, but they really do have those attributes and characteristics about them.”

For Ellis, things have come full circle. The mastermind behind the “Lucky” nickname now feels, in one word or another, lucky to have the inseparable duo on her team.

“Their characters are impeccable, and you couldn’t ask for two nicer people on the team,” Ellis said. “I have a lot of affection for both of them.”

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