January 7, 2014

#LMRanks: Barton's Profound Presence for Antelopes

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter | College Preview 2014

While his point totals have been impressive, the fact that Carson Barton has stayed at Grand Canyon through its transition from NCAA DII to MCLA DII and now DI is equally important. (Cecil Copeland)

Put aside Carson Barton’s numbers for a minute.

Yes, they are tough to ignore. Barton’s 110 goals and 55 assists in two years at Grand Canyon (Ariz.) are spectacular, especially when you consider many of them came against the best teams the MCLA has to offer.

But ignore the digits for now.

For as impressive as his statistics are, Barton’s value goes far deeper than that. In some ways, he is the reason why the Antelopes men’s lacrosse program stands where it does today.

Grand Canyon has had a tumultuous recent history. The rollercoaster began in 2011, when the NCAA Division II university announced it would no longer sponsor lacrosse as a varsity sport. “A lot of things during that year I’m trying to forget,” said Antelopes coach Manny Rapkin, who was an assistant at the time.

Rapkin does remember two things: Grand Canyon committed to play in MCLA Division II for 2012, and the Antelopes had this freshman from Edmonton who only played in five games because of a broken foot, but had serious potential.

Rapkin, who first saw Barton play when he was the head coach at Dominican (N.Y.) in 2009, thought the Canadian finisher would be a first-line midfielder.

But things changed.

“It kind of just happened,” said Rapkin, who brought back just 10 players from the varsity edition in 2012. “It’s not like I had a plan. The MCLA thing just happened, and he was by far our best player. He needed to be on the field all the time, so we made him into an attackman.”

Barton’s presence at Grand Canyon was nearly as capricious.

“Being in Phoenix was the main thing,” he said. “In Alberta, the winters aren’t so nice there.”

Although he wanted to play at the NCAA level, Barton stuck it out at Grand Canyon.  Despite the added frustration of the broken foot, Barton had grown attached to the school and had a burgeoning friendship with Kyle Mason, a local product who now is the only other senior on the team with Barton.

Their chemistry paid off in 2012, when the Antelopes made their foray into MCLA Division II. Grand Canyon finished 15-2 and earned a spot in the national quarterfinals. Barton led the team with 85 points.

As the program regained its footing, Barton evolved into a leader.

This article originally appears in the January 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

“He really didn’t have the benefit of watching others lead,” Rapkin said. “He had to grow into a leadership position. Basically, he’s been the guy who has developed the leadership program at Grand Canyon.”

“I know a lot of times the players who are named captain are expected to be the leaders on the team, but your teammates know who the leaders are regardless of who is named captain,” Barton said. “Being a leader regardless of what’s in front of you or who’s around you is important.”

Grand Canyon leapt to MCLA Division I in 2013, its third division in as many years. Not many teams navigate that jump successfully but with Barton leading the way, the Antelopes stunned Arizona State during the regular season and had one-goal losses to BYU, UC Santa Barbara and Chapman, all of which were top-10 teams. Barton scored 21 goals and dished out seven assists in those four contests alone, helping Grand Canyon earn an unexpected trip to nationals once again.

This year, Grand Canyon has three loaded classes to compliment the two-man senior contingent. Unlike three years ago when nothing about the program was sure, the expectations are set for the Antelopes: Anything but another trip to the tournament will be a disappointment.

With more talent surrounding him, Barton may not pile up the numbers like he has in his first two seasons. But any success Grand Canyon enjoys remains rooted in his decision to stay.

“When he got here, there was no leadership,” Rapkin said. “We had 17 guys. The program was in disarray. Now he is going to leave behind a junior class that has 13 kids. He has set a really good example for what will be our first full class. That’s his legacy besides the points.”

Fan Vote

Read the breakdown of the finalists by LM's Jac Coyne

Logan Quinn, Arizona State, Sr. M - 41%
Kacy Carter, Colorado State, Sr. A - 18%
Mike Fabrizio, Bringham Young, Jr. A - 18%
Riley Seidel, Colorado, Sr. A - 14%
Carson Barton, Grand Canyon, Sr. A - 8%
Peter Doyle, Stanford, So. M - 5% 

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