Few players, if any, had as many expectations this season as Messalonskee’s Kristy Bernatchez.
She’s on the junior national team. Her sister Katie plays at Boston University. Her parents run Majestix Field Hockey, which had a team go 6-0 at the National Hockey Festival. She had already committed to the University of North Carolina, which was on its way to the national championship game.
Bernatchez began this season by scoring goals at an amazing rate, and drew extra attention from opponents. Everybody knew that the less she had the ball, the easier it was to beat Messalonskee.
With all that, Bernatchez still topped the state’s record for goals in a season, and finished with 47, including two in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference runner-up game. The Maine Field Hockey Association recognizes her as the state record-holder for goals in a single season. Bernatchez is the choice as the Kennebec Journal Field Hockey Player of the Year.
“All the eyes watching her, I think she just handled it with so much grace, and so much confidence,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “Being in high school alone is hard enough. This year, she just handled it with so much grace and such maturity.”
Bernatchez scored seven goals as a sophomore and 13 as a junior. Sure, she set a goal of creating more offense this fall, but 47 goals in 19 games?
“I never thought that would happen,” Bernatchez said. “I was set up a lot on the corners. Most of the balls came out to me. And people dished it to me in the circle.”
McLaughlin said Bernatchez would often stay after practice, either helping a teammate, or grabbing a goalie so she herself could get more shots.
“She works harder than anyone I’ve ever seen to perfect everything,” McLaughlin said. “She’s extremely coachable.”
Messalonskee’s only losses this season were to Skowhegan, by scores of 4-0 and 3-1 in the regular season and 2-1 in the Eastern A final. Bernatchez scored both Messalonskee goals by ripping in shots from the top of the circle on penalty corners. Those were the only two goals the Indians allowed all season.
“Those two shots that Kristy put in, those were shots that no goalie could have stopped,” Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty said. “College goalies couldn’t have stopped them.”
During her four years at Messalonskee, the Eagles went 56-11-1, reaching the Eastern A title game all four years but never playing in the state championship game.
“Looking back, I wouldn’t want to play for any other team,” Bernatchez said. “We had a great last couple years. Even though it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, it’s still a great experience.”
Bernatchez decided last year that she would go to North Carolina. The Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 for much of this season.
“I visited probably seven or eight schools last fall,” Bernatchez said. “UNC was one of the last ones I went to. You just kind of know when you’re there that’s where you want to go.”
North Carolina graduates eight players from this year’s team, including its starting left and right midfielders. Bernatchez said that’s likely where she’ll have a chance to play.
“I’ve been talking with the coaches,” she said. “They said they’re hoping I’ll make an immediate impact on the team — which is nerve-wracking, but exciting.”
“I think she rises to the occasion,” McLaughlin said, “and she’s better and better with more skilled players around her.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243