In the summer of 2016, two North Carolina women’s lacrosse alums got an opportunity like no other.
Amanda Barnes-Moore had spent the past five seasons as a Duke assistant coach. Emily Garrity Parros had worked with James Madison for three years and was then coaching high school and club teams in Orlando, Florida. Both had NCAA Tournament experience.
But they’d never built a program from scratch — and that’s exactly what East Carolina let them do.
Four months after ECU announced plans to add women’s lacrosse as a sport, it hired Barnes-Moore as head coach and Garrity Parros as an assistant coach to work primarily with offense.
“It's really nice having another Tar Heel,” Parros said. “Obviously, coming from the same program, we see things a lot similarly … but it's been really fun, because you really leave your thumbprint on that program. The fact that you can say every kid that's here, we got to handpick, that's pretty awesome and pretty rare.”
And on Sunday, the two former Tar Heels returned to their old stomping grounds. As they patrolled the sidelines on a rainy afternoon at Kenan Memorial Stadium, they did so across from a familiar face — Jenny Levy, who coached Barnes-Moore from 2005 to 2008 and Garrity Parros from 2010 to 2013.
“It takes some courage and some fearlessness and some thick skin and a lot of hard work, but I'm really proud of them,” said Levy, in her 24th year as head coach of the UNC women’s lacrosse team. “I told the team yesterday, ‘Hey, they're alums. Let's make them proud. And the way to make them proud is just go after them as hard as we can. They'd be disappointed if we didn't play well.’”
North Carolina, the No. 2 team in the country, took those instructions to heart. The Tar Heels (3-0) blew out the Pirates, 21-3, and saw 13 different players score. They led 15-0 at halftime and outshot ECU 45-8 for the game. In context, though, Barnes-Moore and Garrity Parros were still satisfied with their road trip from Greenville to Chapel Hill.
This is only the second season of East Carolina lacrosse, after the coaches spent the 2016-17 academic year recruiting, coordinating, scheduling and doing everything else required of a Division I varsity sports program. ECU went 2-15 in 2018, playing teams like Michigan, Oregon and Duke, Barnes-Moore’s former employer.
In 2019, the Pirates have already matched that win total with a team of almost all first-years and sophomores. They entered Sunday 2-0 after beating Winthrop and Gardner-Webb. But Barnes-Moore has also been set on playing some of the top programs in the country. And UNC, which in the past 10 years has reached seven NCAA Tournament semifinals and won two national championships, fit the bill.
“As we’re building our program, we don't want to be afraid of tough competition,” Barnes-Moore said. “I thought today — especially coming out of the second half, when we were down by what might seem insurmountable odds there — to have a 6-3 half was commendable for our young athletes. Just to have the fight and the grit to not get down and to keep battling.”
Barnes-Moore and Garrity Parros were both team players with parents who coached, Levy said, but they differed in how exactly they led. Barnes-Moore spent her first three seasons at UNC as a backup goalie. She didn’t record a single start and only played in 16 total games.
But as a senior in 2008, she started all 20 games. North Carolina went 13-7 that year, sneaking into the NCAA Tournament and upsetting Virginia, the fourth overall seed, in the first round. Barnes-Moore had 10 saves in that win. It remains her favorite lacrosse-specific memory from UNC.
“I think how players deal with that type of adversity of not playing right away, and what their attitude is and how hard they continue to work is really important,” Levy said. “And it’s a selfless position that Amanda had to do, yet she loved every minute of it.”
Garrity Parros’ career was a bit different. She was a four-year starter at midfielder who finished her UNC career with 72 goals and 46 assists. Her senior year culminated with All-ACC honors and a 2013 national championship win over Maryland — the first title for Levy, who, just like her former players, started UNC’s program from scratch in 1994.
“Emily was so competitive, but she also understood the difference between a good teammate and a bad teammate, a good practice and a bad practice,” Levy said. “She was super demanding as far as execution and focus on a day-in, day-out basis.”
Barnes-Moore and Garrity Parros both said their time in Chapel Hill piqued their interest in coaching later on. Constant interactions with Levy and her assistants over the years — such as Phil Barnes (no relation to Amanda), Jenn Cook and Katrina Dowd — taught them a lot, about passion and love of the sport and giving back to that sport by coaching others.
And on Sunday, Barnes-Moore and Garrity Parros got a chance to showcase what they’d learned at UNC — along with the distinct styles and strategies they’d brought to ECU — in a homecoming that, despite the final score, they both still enjoyed.
“Always special to test yourself against the ones that taught you,” Barnes-Moore said with a smile.
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