Daily Press (Sunday)

Bettencour­t caps perfect season

Midfielder leads Norfolk Academy to VISAA crown to earn top honor

- By Darrell Cuenca

The Norfolk Academy field hockey team steamrolle­d all comers this season, outscoring opponents 191-12 en route to a 23-0 record, the Virginia Independen­t Schools Athletic Associatio­n Division I championsh­ip and the No. 2 spot in the final MaxPreps. com national rankings.

And according to longtime Bulldogs coach Mary Werkheiser — who ranks this year’s squad as one of the best she’s had at the school — there was one player she could attribute as the driver of the team: senior midfielder Brooke Bettencour­t, the 2023 All-Tidewater Field Hockey Player of the Year.

“She’s the quarterbac­k of the team,” Werkheiser said. “She’s our best ballhandle­r and makes things happen. She’s the one we always try to get the ball to, and she either makes the big play or finds the open player and they finish it out — a pivotal player for us.”

Bettencour­t, who is quiet, humble and mostly leads by example, according to her coach, has grown leaps and bounds from the little girl who always had a ball and stick with her on the sidelines to a player who regularly patrolled the center of the field, having play funneled through her.

“You’ve got to be level-headed, organized and the ball goes through you,” Bettencour­t said. “But if we need to score, I can push up and be a fourth forward.”

And in the final year of her high school career, Bettencour­t tallied 28 goals and 23 assists to lead the Bulldogs to a bevy of accolades.

Bettencour­t grew up around the sport. Her older sister, Maddie, played and her mother was a youth team coach. Along for the ride at younger than 6 years old, Brooke Bettencour­t said she just picked up a mini-stick and played around with the ball.

“I would see her take a hockey ball on the sidelines and she would be dribbling, driving and shooting on goal — all the time,” said Werkheiser, who also coached the elder Bettencour­t. “It’s those repetition­s, (Brooke) would always be practicing. She always had a stick and a ball and she was always hitting it around.”

Bettencour­t started playing seriously when she was 8, and the two siblings would occasional­ly spend their free time playing against each other in the garage.

“When we were younger, she would help me with my stick skills,” said Bettencour­t, adding that when she got older — and bigger and stronger — her sister started playing a little tougher.

Maddie “would mess with me,

but she was always pushing me to be a better player.”

That experience in the garage and playing club ball with older players had its benefits as Brooke Bettencour­t would make the Bulldogs’ varsity squad as an eighthgrad­er,

playing with girls as much as five years older.

“That was a bit nerve-wracking,” Bettencour­t quipped.

But she settled into the team after a few games, contributi­ng 10 goals and four assists. Following

a freshman year that was lost to the COVID pandemic — the team played intrasquad scrimmages in masks — Bettencour­t developed into a main cog of the squad as a sophomore, recording 27 goals and 15 assists, and being named to the All-Tidewater second team.

The following season, she became a team leader, totaling 37 goals and 22 assists and leading the Bulldogs to the VISAA Division I title game, which they dropped to fierce rivals Collegiate of Richmond 4-0. She was also named to the All-Tidewater first team as a junior.

That loss fueled her and her teammates, and she made it a point to work on her fitness in the summer.

“I wanted to show the younger girls that you’ve got to work in the offseason,” said Bettencour­t, who finished with career totals of 102 goals and 64 assists and has committed to play for Wake Forest next year. “Working on those basics allows you to still play at a high level even when you’re tired.”

And even though the Bulldogs endured a dominant season this year, in a flash, their 22-game juggernaut effort could’ve been all for naught. In the state championsh­ip, a rematch against Collegiate — the third tilt between the two teams in 12 months — Norfolk Academy had sped to a 4-1 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but then quickly gave up two goals, prompting Werkheiser to call a timeout.

“I talked to them about what they needed to do to close it out, but they also talked amongst themselves afterward,” Werkheiser said. “Brooke spoke up and told the team, ‘We are not losing — we’re winning this game.’ The power in her voice — that was the first time I’ve heard that. She meant business.

“It was the last game of the season and her high school career, and she wanted to get the job done. That moment meant everything to her.”

 ?? STEVEN GOLDBURG ?? Brooke Bettencour­t led Norfolk Academy to a 23-0 record and a VISAA Division I state championsh­ip this season.
STEVEN GOLDBURG Brooke Bettencour­t led Norfolk Academy to a 23-0 record and a VISAA Division I state championsh­ip this season.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States