BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. (BVM) — Freshman talents like Juliana Betts are few and far between.
As a newcomer for the Chartiers Valley girls lacrosse team, she piled up 70 goals and 33 assists, along with registering 129 controls on the draw.
Betts wasn’t always pouring goals in at such an impressive clip, though. She took lacrosse up when she was in fourth grade. It’s taken time for her to grow into her own.
“I was strictly defense and, when we were crushing a team by 15, I was in,” said Betts about her start in the sport. “I think the biggest thing for me was wanting to be good. I practiced a lot to get to the point where I could get better.”
She came into the spotlight when she netted a combined 15 goals in over a two-game stretch, perhaps at the best time possible. Against Mars in the WPIAL Class 2A title game, she scored seven goals and dished out three assists. The game before, in the semifinals against Blackhawk, she recorded eight markers.
The surge was instrumental in grabbing the district crown.
Chartiers Valley’s head coach, Melissa Moran, stresses that the offensive display was even more admirable when you take into account Betts’ limited experience.
“I think it’s important for people to remember that the freshmen on these teams (that are) performing so well are only 14 or 15 years old,” Moran said. “When you remind yourself of that and then see how well she is able to play against her opponents, it’s even more impressive. Every now and again there are just girls that are exceptional and Juliana is one of them.”
Still, Betts didn’t expect to pin up the numbers that she did over the course of the campaign.
“I’d played with some of these girls before and they were all so good to me,” Betts said. “I guess my freshman year, I would have to say, was surprising.”
She admits that she was anxious heading into both of those district contests. Really, it didn’t show.
“I was just trying to make the best of it,” Betts said. “I wanted to be confident in myself and what my team brought to the table … (Knowing) what we could do helped me change my gears for those two games.”
When she was face-guarded against Mars, her teammates still found a way to help her shine.
“It was my team that actually pulled through and got me the ball and got me open,” Betts said. “Some people set double screens without even being asked … I think the explosiveness on offense and how many more points we scored, we have to thank each other for it.”
Junior attackers Sage Gojsovich and Tatiana Adzima, senior midfielders Josie Jones and Caleigh Bogats, and fellow newbie Ava Warzinski were all proponents in the Colts’ offense.
At 5-foot-9, Betts considers her height to be a big part of her individual game.
“Being able to shoot over people and around people really gives me that advantage,” she said. “There’s not a lot of girls that are taller than me that I play against … I guess I’m pretty tall.”
Moran contends that her instinctive nature is what makes Betts stand out.
“Juliana has the ability to just play and not think,” Moran said. “She is constantly one step ahead of the others, whether it’s reading the field, her next move, or adjusting off the draw.”
After the WPIAL gauntlet that her team was able to plow through this past spring, Betts feels that the Colts enter next season with a lot of potential.
“A lot of people say that we were just lucky and we got natural talent from our rising freshman class,” Betts said. “But it had nothing to do with that … It’s because of coaching and our hard work.
“I’m so unbelievably proud of every single person that stepped up this year and helped us gain the goals that we’ve been trying to shoot for since day one.”
As for Betts’ capacity next season, Moran said: “Juliana will start to fill in some of the roles our senior middies took on this year … She’s a natural leader and the girls will respond.”