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South Forsyth to Manhattan: South goalies Barlag, Serbinski share unique connection
South Forsyth goalies Ethan Barlag, left, and Danielle Serbinski will play at Manhattan College in New York this fall. - photo by David Roberts

Danielle Serbinski's lacrosse career can be traced back to karaoke night at a pizza restaurant back in fourth grade.

Serbinski, unknowingly nearing the tail end of her softball career, spied a flyer outside the restaurant advertising free youth lacrosse lessons. That's where it started.

"So, I went and I loved it," she said. "I couldn't play that season because I was already signed up for softball, but I loved it so much and I hated softball, so I was like, 'I'm never doing this again, and I want to try lacrosse,' and so I did. I've never played anything else since."

Ethan Barlag took a similar route, deciding to try lacrosse in third grade.

"I had played baseball my whole life up until then, but I wanted to find a new sport and branch out," he said. "My mom is actually from Maryland, so she kind of had a bit of background on lacrosse, because that's the lacrosse capital of the world. So she said, 'Why don't you give it a shot? You might like it.' Sure enough, I love it."

Now, Barlag and Serbinski stand goal for South Forsyth's lacrosse teams, and in the fall, they will become Manhattan College's newest goalies after signing their National Letters of Intent earlier this school year.

"I originally wasn't going to tour Manhattan, and then I fell in love with the program that they had," Serbinski said. "I went up there not expecting to commit, but it was just beautiful and everything that I've ever wanted and I didn't know that I needed. I went up there and I loved it and I committed April of last year and I signed this fall."

A few months later, one of Manhattan's coaches spotted Barlag at a tournament. It was the middle of November, just a few months before the start of his senior season, and Barlag was beginning to wonder if he would receive an opportunity to play lacrosse in college.

"It was a long process," Barlag said. "I almost started to give up hope on things kind of coming together, but in the very last game of my very last tournament ever in my club season, they saw me and decided to take a chance on me. A couple of weeks later I ended up committing and then signing, and now here I am. I'm excited, especially knowing somebody going up there, so it'll be super cool."

Barlag toured the school ahead of his commitment, but before then, he ran the news by his classmate, Serbinski, one day in anatomy.

"Ethan and I have anatomy class and he told me, 'I'm going to go visit Manhattan,' and I was like, 'Oh my God. You better commit or I'm going to feel offended, because that is my school. I would love to have you there,' Serbinski recalls. "It was fun to know that the choice that I'm making is right because he's going there with me, and he's somebody that I respect so much, and I'm glad he's coming there."


Both Barlag and Serbinski were among the top goalies in the county last season.

Barlag said that he moved to goalie in fifth grade, mentioning that he enjoyed the lacrosse tradition of getting the goalie following the game.

He blocked 167 shots in 21 games during his junior year, saving 62 percent of all attempts. Serbinski, meanwhile, racked up 139 saves in 17 games for the War Eagles, including three games where she made 15 or more saves.

Manhattan College is nestled in the Bronx, just north of 240th street and about five miles from Yankee Stadium.

"I've always been a city person, because I grew up in Chicago and lived there for five years in Wrigleyville, so being in the city is something that I'm accustomed to," Serbinski said. "I had always wanted to go to a bigger city school, and then I went to Manhattan and it was like smaller classes and I'm right in the city. It's literally perfect. I've been to New York a million times, and it's my favorite place in the whole world, so finding a school where I could have a smaller school but also be in the city where everything is right by me — and I also don't have a license, so that's also super helpful."

South's boys finished as the No. 2 team in Area 6 Class 6A-7A and reached the Elite Eight before falling to eventual state runner-up Centennial. Serbinski helped South's girls team to its first playoff appearance in nine years, but she is hoping the War Eagles can take the next step this season.

"I want to make it one more step in the playoffs," Serbinski said. "I think that would be amazing to actually win a game in the playoffs and have that be the first time we've done that in a lot of years. I think it'd be amazing, especially as a captain and as a senior to see us paving a way for the other people younger than me coming up."