Field hockey, as big as the NFL?

Definitely not in this country, but when Kristy Bernatchez got to spend a week in Holland playing field hockey, she said the comparison between field hockey there and the NFL in America isn’t far-fetched.

“Definitely not as televised,” Bernatchez said. “But the importance of it, I’d say comparable.”

Bernatchez, a Messalonskee High School graduate, is a sophomore field hockey player at the University of North Carolina. This fall, she started 21 out of 23 games for the Tar Heels, who lost to Syracuse in the NCAA Division I national semifinal.

Along with that, Bernatchez is also a member of the USA Field Hockey U-21 Junior Women’s National Team. That team played four games in Holland last month.

“They don’t really have schools that play, so we played their top club teams,” Bernatchez said. “A lot of them had Olympians on their team, and people from their national team. There were some players that were our age, but most of them were in their older 20s.”


Team USA flew out of New Jersey on a Friday and landed in Amsterdam the next day. After a day of practice, the U-21’s played four games in four days, before getting a chance to go sightseeing that Friday.

“We got to go Amsterdam one day,” Bernatchez said. “While we were there, we got to stay with host families, instead of the hotels.”

The Americans lost all four games on the trip. Bernatchez is featured in two of the 12 action shots from the trip on the USA Field Hockey website.

“We did not win any games, but we made a lot of progress,” Bernatchez said. “We always scored goals. It’s just their (penalty) corner executions, that’s where they really beat us.”

Holland is also one of the countries where there are men’s and women’s teams, and Bernatchez got to see just how highly those teams are regarded.

“Their lives revolve around field hockey there,” Bernatchez said. “All of them live within three miles of their clubs, and most of them spend all their weekends there.”


Bernatchez’ North Carolina team went to Holland less than a year earlier.

“We were divided into two groups and took on the busy city on bright red rental bikes,” Bernatchez wrote in a blog for UNC’s website. “This was easier said than done. Despite many near-crashes with cars, trains, pedestrians and poles in the bustling town, we all made it back in one piece after a beautiful tour of Amsterdam. We got to see all parts of the city — from parks, to expensive shopping streets, to the notorious Red Light District.”

In late March, her worlds collided some more as the U-21 team toured and faced the Tar Heels in North Carolina. Bernatchez hasn’t ruled out eventually moving up to the U.S. women’s national team.

“I guess it depends on how I progress with the U-21s,” she said. “I technically can play with them for the next two years.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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