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Sophomore Barris Gets Chance with Puerto Rican Nat’l Team

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Sophomore back Angelika Barris of the Rutgers University-Newark women's soccer team will spend time with the Puerto Rican National Team during the summer of 2016 after a successful three-day tryout with the team late last year.

Barris transferred to Rutgers-Newark in the fall and helped the Scarlet Raiders to the most successful season in program history as the team advanced to the semifinals of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship, played in the finals of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships and won a program-high 15 matches (15-9-1).

Barris was one of five players based in the United States to go to the tryout in Puerto Rico, and from the start, she said the experience was a great one.

"As soon as we arrived at the facility, everyone was incredibly welcoming. I wasn't sure how we would be received, but the entire group seemed genuinely happy to have us and made our experience one to remember."

Barris - who was lucky enough to share the experience with her sister, Victoria - will be going back to train and work out with the team during the summer and will be a member of the U20 squad with a chance to be called up to the Puerto Rican National Team for the Olympics in Brazil.

"Just to be able to go and be a part of it is an awesome accomplishment and an experience that I will never forget," said the Hasbrouck Heights native. "They have a very strong defense so it is going to be hard for me to get the call up, but regardless, I am excited and honored to have the opportunity."

Her sister is currently in Puerto Rico playing in Olympic Qualifying matches, something Angelika wasn't able to do.

"With school and responsibilities here, I wasn't able to stay in Puerto Rico and play during the spring semester," added Barris. "I would have loved to, but it was just unrealistic given what I have going on."

Barris - who is 100 percent Puerto Rican - has been able to visit family and friends in Puerto Rico about once a year growing up. Her mom is from the west side of the island and her dad has lived all over.

The Scarlet Raider back felt strong during the camp and continued gaining confidence as the three-day workout went on. She felt comfortable and immediately saw similarities to playing college soccer in the NJAC.

"Technically, I felt I was right there with the members of the national team," she said. "The biggest difference was the fitness. I don't think I was out of shape by any means, but you can really tell that their fitness is on that next level."

Barris also compared it to Rutgers-Newark.

"The similarities are definitely there. Our practices, our style and our pace is similar to things over there, so that was pretty cool to see. I think that speaks to our coaches and how knowledgeable they are about the sport and how it should be played. I also think it shows how far the Rutgers-Newark program has come over the last few years and how much ability we have."

Barris transferred to R-N as a sophomore and made an immediate impact, starting 21 matches along the back line and playing in 23 overall. She handed out one assist, and most importantly helped the Scarlet Raider defense to seven shutouts and a 1.46 goals-against average.

The Puerto Rican National Team is currently ranked 108th in the world, and the head coach - Garabet Avedissian - has coached worldwide and most recently led Costa Rica's national team.

"To play soccer your entire life and get an opportunity to be a part of a national team is an experience and opportunity I am incredibly grateful for," added Barris. "I have had and continue to have great coaches, and I have been able to play with other great players, but to receive instruction from a staff that has truly been all over the world is something that is hard to even describe."

Barris will train with the Scarlet Raiders during their spring season in April, and then head back to Puerto Rico after the spring semester in Newark ends.

Fans can expect updates over the summer on Barris' experience with the Puerto Rican National Team.

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Photo by Larry Levanti