West Point's Betterbed balances team and Corps job
September 3, 2009
There's nothing like the feeling of beating Navy. There's nothing like the feeling of winning a Patriot League championship. And, there's nothing like winning a game in double overtime. To put them all together was the ultimate sensation felt by the Army women's soccer team Nov. 9 last season when they defeated Navy 1-0 in double overtime to earn the Patriot League tournament championship.
Firstie attacking center midfielder Elizabeth Betterbed, who was a defender on last year's team, felt it was the defining moment of the 2008 season for
"Beating Navy at Navy in double overtime on Pia White's goal (was a big moment)," Betterbed said. "It was a heartbreaker for them, but it was a real exciting moment for us to be able to send off coach (Gene) Ventriglia the right way by making our first trip to the NCAAs. We would like to repeat that memory this year."
The team is in transition as Stephanie Golan takes over as new head coach for Ventriglia, who coached Army in its first 23 years of women's soccer at the Division I level, but that is not deterring Betterbed in believing this year's squad can't do the same thing- making the NCAAs.
The only thing that she wants to change is the result from the NCAAs, which they lost 2-0 to #16 Virginia.
"It was a great experience to go down there and play a national-caliber team," Betterbed explained. "But, at the same time, it was a hugely frustrating game for us. We went down there and played not to lose, and as we know that never works out well and, unfortunately, we didn't win that game.
"I think we could have given them more of a fight," she added. "Hopefully, when we get back this year (to the NCAAs) we'll be more productive."
As Betterbed talks about giving more of a fight, she is all about being a fighter. This season will cement that fighting trait as she battles playing a new position on the field, although she has played it in the past, while tackling the demanding position of being the deputy brigade commander of the U.S. Corps of Cadets.
Betterbed is more comfortable now playing the attacking midfield position, but it has taken some time since she didn't participate in soccer activities during the spring because she spent the semester studying in Mexico.
"The fitness and the speed piece (have come slowly) because I took the spring off from soccer," Betterbed said. "I think that has meant more than switching positions. I think I'll get there because there is still a month before the league season starts, and I'm working hard to get (in better physical condition for those games)."
When Betterbed sets her mind on something it'll get accomplished, so getting back in prime playing shape shouldn't be a problem for her. She originally was not recruited to play soccer at Army, and tried out for the team during Beast Barracks as a new cadet and made it.
Making the team, in Betterbed's mind, was just like the reasoning behind her coming to West Point-it was for the challenge.
"I think more than anything I was looking for a challenge," the Fox Island, Wash., native, said. "I didn't really know anything about West Point, but the more I learned about it the more I loved it. I loved the lifestyle and what it stands for. I was just looking to see if I could cut it and meet the challenge."
Meeting the challenge is something she has done on a grand scale.
On the soccer field, she earned Patriot League all-tournament team and a second-team all-conference pick as a defender last year. She also earned first-team Academic All-America honors, and now, within USCC, is the second-highest ranking cadet.
While there is an exhausting give-and-take to honoring both commitments to the team and the corps, Betterbed is thrilled to have the opportunity to do both.
"I talk all the time about loyalty to the institution, and being in this position has really highlighted for me the challenge of balancing the two," Betterbed, who also served as the summer garrison regimental executive officer, said. "(Part of) the deputy brigade commander responsibilities are to perform duties as the first captain.
"It's such an open-ended job. I have more freedom working with (Tyler Gordy) to see what's important and then head down that path of managing this program or that program," she added. "At this point, I'm still feeling it out and seeing what needs more attention and what does not."
Golan, who is a Duke University graduate, talks highly about her firstie midfielder, who has taken on the high profile role within the corps with a lot of gusto.
"Liz is obviously the model cadet," Golan said. "She represents what you want from anybody on your team both on and off the field. On the field, she is a tremendous warrior who fights to the very last second of any game.
"She is a true competitor both in practice and in games," Golan added. "Off the field, she takes care of business in the classroom and with her military obligations as well. She is the type of kid who really gets the overall picture of West Point."
Moving Betterbed to the attacking midfield position from defender was also a calculated change by Golan because she believes the team will benefit greatly from the move.
"One of the reasons I moved her there is she's the type of kid, when the game is on the line, who wants the ball and wants to be a difference maker," Golan explained. "It's a lot easier to do that further up the field than it is back on defense."
Now that the season has begun, the dynamic of this year is really taking shape.
Playing soccer and working as the deputy brigade commander are taking hold in her daily life as is keeping tabs on her plebe sister, Claire, who is making a mark of her own by participating with the cross country team.
For Betterbed, all this has made for a phenomenal experience, and she refers back to the spring while attending the civilian engineering school in Mexico on what this has all meant to her life.
"It's forced me to push myself because I'm not just going to college, I'm not just playing soccer, and just like everyone else (at West Point), I'm working for something," Betterbed said. "I'm preparing to serve and I think that is the driving force in my life.
"Down in Mexico, I would be talking to people who were graduating within a month and I would ask them, 'what are you going to do when you graduate'' and they had no idea," she continued. "And, some of my civilian friends are in the same boat as them, and to me that's a shame because being here has given me a purpose and given me something to work for and I couldn't he happier."