Kristy Bernatchez felt the pressure this year.

Having already committed to play at the University of North Carolina and a member of the United States U19 team that played in Canada over the summer, Bernatchez knew all eyes would be on her during her senior field hockey season at Messalonskee.

All eyes, that is, except the pair belonging to her older sister Katie, who had headed off to play and learn at Boston University. That’s really what worried Bernatchez.

“I felt very comfortable when I had her behind me and I think this year I felt more pressure to be an offensive threat,” Bernatchez said. “Last year I was more passive and this year I had been told by a lot of people I needed to shoot more. So I did.”

Bernatchez took the advice to heart, scoring 47 goals, after tallying 13 as a junior. For her scoring prowess, her technical skills, athletic ability and her recognition beyond the state’s borders, Bernatchez is our choice as the Maine Sunday Telegram field hockey player of the year.

“To live up to the expectations of the community and the media, it’s a hard situation,” Messalonskee Coach Katie Gorham said. “It’s like being a celebrity. She handled it with grace. She handled the pressure very well. This year her maturity really shined and she really took off.”

The only thing Bernatchez was unable to accomplish is the one thing that has eluded all Class A players and teams in Maine over the past three seasons — a victory over Skowhegan.

“They’re obviously our biggest rival,” Bernatchez said. “I would have loved a chance to beat them in high school but it didn’t happen. It’s not the end of the world. I’m moving on.”

Bernatchez was the only player to score on the Indians this season, once in the regular season and once in a 2-1 Eastern Maine final loss.

“She has a killer shot that you can’t save. They were both into a 6-inch hole on the right- hand side that few people can get,” Skowhegan Coach Paula Doughty said.

Gorham said at the end of Messalonskee’s final practice she clocked Bernatchez’s drive from the top of the penalty corner at 70 miles per hour.

“When she hits it, it’s absolutely terrifying,” Gorham said.

Last April Bernatchez helped the U.S. U17 team split a four-game series with Canada in Vancouver. This January she will be among 25 players attending a U19 training camp in Chula Vista, Calif., from which an international touring team will be picked.

Bernatchez’s ultimate goal is a spot on the senior national team and playing in the Olympics.

“It’s going to be hard but I’d love to some day if it’s possible,” Bernatchez said.

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com