By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- Amanda Barlow felt a little apprehension about stepping into a leadership role on Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy's girls basketball team this season, and probably for good reason.
For one, the senior had only transferred to SVCA from Millbrook just a week before the start of basketball practice. As if the unfamiliar faces weren't enough, Barlow also had minimal on-court leadership experience at the varsity level as she saw little playing time in her two seasons on Millbrook's record-setting squad.
But as Barlow prepared to suit up for SVCA this season, she decided it was time to assume a leadership role on her new team.
"Everybody always said, 'Oh Amanda, you're so quiet, you're so meek,' and I'm like, 'You know what? I'm going to prove you guys wrong,'" Barlow said. "Coach [Lauren Culler] said we needed leadership, so I help out all of the other girls. I was scared at first, but I really felt like I needed to take that next step and help others out."
Barlow's arrival was a welcome one for Culler, as the Patriots lost standout center Allie Pieper to graduation.
The 5-foot-11 Barlow has fit in rather nicely in SVCA's scheme, and Culler said that combination of Barlow and sophomore Carol Bartholomew gives the Patriots a dominating presence in the paint.
But while Barlow can certainly hold her own inside the lane, it's her versatility that makes the senior a match-up nightmare for SVCA's opponents.
"She can drain the 3 from the outside. She's the highest in foul-shooting percentage for the team, she carries the team with field goals and foul shooting. It's because she's in the right place at the right time," Culler said. "This team shares very well, and Amanda is also good at that. She's got a lot of assists -- she's dishing when she sees the other girls out there, as well. So she's very well-rounded."
Barlow averaged 18.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per contest through SVCA's first 16 games this season. She has proven to be a consistent shooter this season, hitting 48.6 percent of her shots, including an area-leading 40.6-percent (13 for 32) mark from beyond the 3-point arc.
Barlow acknowledged that her height and aggressiveness at driving into the lane has played a part of her success this season, but the senior admitted that a major reason that she has been so successful is due to the way that the entire SVCA squad plays as one unit.
"We work together as a team, it's not one individual scoring," Barlow said. "When we get our points we share the wealth. I think it's team bonding, because you actually have to like your team to play well."
Culler agreed, stating that Barlow brings a positive spirit and energy that the rest of the team quickly embraced.
"She loves these girls -- with just meeting them they have all become friends and they've all clicked well off the floor," Culler said. "And that's a big thing. If you don't get along with them off the floor, then you're not going to play well with them on the floor."
SVCA has certainly played well this season, as the Patriots are currently 17-2 and unbeaten in their region, giving them the top seed when the postseason begins next week, according to Culler.
Barlow is no stranger to success, having been a part of two of Millbrook's three straight VHSL Group AA titles during her time with the Pioneers. But while Barlow said it was fun being a part of multiple state title runs, she felt that Millbrook's historic run "took away from every other sport in the community."
Still, there is no doubt Barlow's experience at Millbrook helped mold her into the player that she is now.
"That made her the player she is, there's no doubt about it," Culler said. "She has worked hard her whole life to become the kind of player that she is. And the best part about Amanda is that she's not done learning and growing. She's teachable, she's coachable and she'll do whatever she can to improve her game because she knows that also improves the team."
Barlow will have another opportunity to experience a deep run into the postseason, this time as a leader on and off the court. It's a chance that Barlow is excited to have, and one that has made her time at SVCA that much more enjoyable.
"I can't say anything bad about SVCA. It's going great. My parents love it, I love it, I get to be with a different group of girls, but they've helped me," Barlow said. "It's been a great experience -- I couldn't ask for better."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org