Boys soccer: Naperville North's Barger brings work ethic to match talent
Competing in virtually every sport as a child growing up, Alex Barger soon realized he had a passion for soccer.
Turns out, the love of that game was equally matched by his skill level.
Now a junior at Naperville North, Barger is already a two-time All-State selection for one of the premier high school programs in the state. He is also the Daily Herald 2021 DuPage County All-Area captain.
"It's super exciting that I've had the opportunity to play with such a successful program," said Barger of Naperville North, which won three consecutive state titles from 2016-18. "I'm cherishing all the moments with my team and my coaches."
Barger's first foray into the sport began at the age of five for a park district team coached by his dad Bryan and his dad's friend. In grade school, he joined the Challengers club program which eventually became Evolution (out of Naperville), and he's still a part of that to this day. In addition, during the time before reaching high school, he participated in basketball, cross country, track, swimming, water polo and baseball.
"It (soccer) turned out to be the first thing I kind of stuck with," said the junior, who credited his dad, his mom Lisa and his older brother Sean for his competitive spirit. "I've always had a passion for it whether I was watching it on TV or playing it. It's always clicked with me. I don't want to downplay any of the other sports but soccer definitely stuck with me the most. And all of the players and coaches I've been around, they've been great to me."
A left back for his club team, that is also where he played as a freshman for the Huskies. He switched to forward last year and then this season, the three-time All-DuPage Valley Conference selection was primarily in the midfield while also seeing time up front.
"I've really enjoyed playing both offense and defense from the midfield," Barger said. "Moving around has helped me develop a lot of the skills I need to be a well-rounded player. I've been able to see the game from different parts of the field and get a different feel for the game."
This fall, he tallied 11 goals and 14 assists, with two of those assists coming in the team's 3-2 victory over Naperville Central in the sectional final last Saturday. On Tuesday, the Huskies fell 2-1 to Morton to finish one win away from the state semifinals, closing with a final record of 21-6-2. In Barger's three years on the varsity, which includes the shortened 2020-21 campaign last spring, the team has 50 wins.
"First off, Alex is a wonderful kid," said Naperville North coach Jim Konrad, whose program has captured eight sectional titles since he took over in 2003. "He is also a diligent worker. He's blessed physically with gifts but he also works non-stop all the time to improve his craft. Combine that work ethic with God-given talent and you can end up being really special.
"He can be a lockdown defender in the back, that's what Indiana recruited him as. In high school, he is one of the best players on the field no matter which position he is at. He has worked so hard to master the skills of all the positions. He's been getting better every game in the midfield because he's working so hard at it, even though he's already the best kid."
Barger, who mentioned Konrad, assistant coach Steve Goletz and his club coach Bunny Larmond as major influences on him, will indeed play his collegiate soccer at Indiana after committing to the Big Ten powerhouse in September. He was already quite familiar with the university after attending summer soccer camps there beginning in the seventh grade.
"When I first went to the camp, I was blown away by the facilities and the coaches," he said, "and also by the amount of talent they brought in from around the country for the camp. It was fascinating to me. To be able to compete with that talent was an amazing experience. And it's amazing that I had a chance to go on a visit there and now get an opportunity to play there."
But first things first, Barger still has a sterling high school career to finish with his senior season on tap next fall. In addition to soccer, he is also carrying a 4.07 GPA (on a four-scale) and is a part of two leadership groups (Huskie Crew and Top Dogs) at the school. With Top Dogs, he is currently helping junior high students begin the transition to high school.
"Talent only takes you so far," Konrad said. "He's first class. The teachers here adore him and his teammates love him; he was selected as a captain as a junior and that is a rare thing. He's one of those kids that people are drawn to. And he's a leader by example. You combine all those things, you end up being a pretty special kid."
THE ALL-AREA TEAM
All-Area teamAldo Alfaro so. M West Chicago
Tristan Alfaro sr. M West Chicago
Tyson Amoo-Mensah sr. M Naperville North
Alex Barger jr. M Naperville North
Colin Bastianoni sr. F Metea Valley
Patrick Bohan so. D Naperville Central
Chris Cruz sr. M Timothy Christian
Jack Finley sr. F Hinsdale Central
Jose Herrera jr. M York
Kacper Janowski sr. M York
Nikolas Jurgovan sr. F Glenbard West
TJ McVey sr. F Benet
Gian Mora-Lovera jr. M Lisle
Robert Platt sr. F Wheaton Academy
Cam Radeke sr. F Naperville North
Nick Roe so. D Benet
Alex Sandoval sr. M Addison Trail
Josh Venouziou sr. F Downers Grove South
Josh Weigel jr. M Naperville Central
Jason Weisheit sr. F Wheaton Warrenville South
Frankie Caira sr. M Lake Park
Guy DeFeo sr. M/F St. Francis
Declan Finnegan jr. G Wheaton Academy
Noah Froebe sr. D Wheaton North
Jack Georgi sr. F Neuqua Valley
Alexander Lamb sr. D Fenton
Ethan Lemkuil sr. D Timothy Christian
Julian Lopez jr. M Downers Grove South
Erick Mena jr. F Metea Valley
Sam Musial sr. M York
Haetham Nasr sr. F Wheaton Academy
Daniel Pepping sr. M Benet
David Peters sr. D Addison Trail
Seamus Reilly jr. D ICCP
Ren Santillan sr. D Glenbard North
Dawson Steere sr. M Hinsdale Central
Bradley Szydlowski jr. D Downers Grove North
Benjamin Tietjen sr. F Naperville Central
Trevor du Vair sr. F Glenbard West
Nick Yasinskyi jr. F Lisle