ESU Alumna Returns to Lead Women’s Lacrosse to New Heights

By Ronald Hanaki
Sports Editor

On August 20, ESU announced that Xeni Barakos would be returning to lead the women’s lacrosse program as its new head coach. Barakos is a 2011 graduate of East Stroudsburg University.

Barakos was a standout defender on the lacrosse team when she was an undergraduate student-athlete at ESU. After graduating from ESU, Barakos spent a year-and-a-half at the Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex as the director of women’s lacrosse and a marketing coordinator.

That led to a meeting with the head coach of Albright College’s women’s lacrosse team where she spent two seasons as an assistant coach and began her master’s degree in education.

Barakos was then recruited by the head coach of Millersville’s women’s lacrosse team.

Barakos said, “The timing was right because I wanted to get back into the PSAC.” Albright College is a Division III school in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Barakos spent one season as the assistant coach at Millersville before accepting the offer to become the new head coach of women’s lacrosse at ESU.

“My goal since I left here (ESU) was to get back here and take this team to the top of the PSAC,” said Barakos.

Even after graduating from ESU, Barakos continued to remain active as an alumna. Barakos said, “I attended every alumni event for the lacrosse team and made every alumni game.”

Coach Barakos will be inheriting a good team. In the spring, the lacrosse team will be returning with ten seniors, a few juniors, a few sophomores, and five freshmen.

“I am excited to teach the new talent,” said Barakos.

Barakos also worked at LANCO Elite Lacrosse Club in Lancaster, and one of the girls from that club is now a freshman here at ESU.

Barakos said, “I expect Brooke Fritz to be an impact player.”

Fritz is a midfielder who happened to go to the same high school as Barakos.

When Barakos was asked why she chose to attend ESU after high school, she said that an overnight stay at ESU was a big help in her decision-making process.

She said, “I knew the second that I stepped on campus that ESU was the right place for me. ESU had my major (media communications – now digital media technologies), and I loved the feeling of the team.”

“I also loved (her former teammate) Lynn Nestor when she was here,” she added.

One of her goals as the new head coach is to run more lacrosse clinics in order to promote the sport.

“My passion is for this game and growing the game. I care about this program because I’m an alum of it,” said Barakos.

Barakos comes from a lacrosse family. Her sister is a graduate assistant for women’s lacrosse at Aurora University in Illinois, and her brother also played lacrosse.

As for her coaching philosophy, Barakos will be running a high-pressure zone, and it sounds like her players have already bought into her program.

Co-captain and senior attack Kaitlynn Wiltraut is upbeat about the upcoming season. Wiltraut said, “Having a new coach gets us excited. We’re taking it as a positive experience as a team.”

The team has already set some goals for next season. Their goals include making the postseason PSAC tournament, having a winning record, and improving their stick skills. And yes, the Warriors want to finally beat the Millersville Marauders next year.

Depth at goalkeeper was an issue last season. The good news for the team is that redshirt-junior Jessica Maxwell is now healthy and has been medically cleared to play again. Junior Malloree Mason, who played on the 2014 team, will be returning to the squad as a backup goalkeeper.

On April 24, ESU hosted the “Symposium on Women in Sport: Celebration of Women’s Athletics.” One of the topics under discussion was whether or not women faced greater challenges for job advancement in women’s collegiate athletics than men.

When asked about this subject, Barakos said, “I don’t coach a sport that is predominantly coached by men. I can name a woman coach in women’s lacrosse at every level.”

Barakos continued, “There are definitely men in the women’s lacrosse coaching world. Some of the great coaches are men, but they’re just not the majority.

“So the job opportunities in women’s lacrosse are pretty equal in terms of opportunity for advancement. I have not run into any discrimination that I know of,” said Barakos.

In closing, Coach Barakos said, “As long as the girls promise to work hard, and I give my best, we will have an outstanding season. I would like to thank the ESU community for welcoming me back to campus. It feels great to be back home.”

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