Colorado State's Bernstein Has One Last Dance
Rams top threat is LM's WCLA Division I Preseason Player of Year
by J. Jude Hazard | LaxMagazine.com
|Colorado State's Hayley Bernstein
was the Rams' top scorer with 38 goals and nine assists through the
first 16 games of 2012.
© Cecil Copeland
Colorado State senior midfielder Hayley Bernstein entered uncharted territory in the offseason — coping with a loss.
After Colorado State won WCLA championships in 2010 and 2011, Bernstein's freshman and sophomore seasons, the top-ranked Rams fell short in 2012.
Colorado State, which carried a 14-game winning streak into the playoffs, breezed through the first two rounds and led 7-5 at halftime of its championship game encounter with 10th-seeded UC Davis.
But the Aggies locked down on defense and shut out the Rams in the final 24 minutes en route to a 9-7 victory and UC Davis' first championship.
"It's still really hard to even think about. It was such a tough loss," Bernstein said. "We didn't really know what it was like to lose at nationals."
The Rams also had something of a home-field advantage with US Lacrosse hosting the WCLA national championship in Colorado Springs.
"We weren't as hungry for it as we should have been. That was what was detrimental to us in the championship game," Bernstein said. "Because we lost, we want it more. We don't want to lose again like we did last year."
The loss added motivation for a veteran Rams team that expects to start at least six seniors this year. Bernstein said it helped carry them through the long, cold Colorado offseason in which players are often forced to practice on an unlined field in freezing temperatures.
"You show up and you put on as many layers as possible," she said. "We try everything so we can actually move our hands and get our stick skills where they should be. It's absolutely freezing."
Bernstein called the winter practice sessions "absolutely miserable," but said the shared experience brought the team closer together, with peers pushing each other to power through the elements.
Long winters and limited practices have led to slow starts for the Rams the last few seasons, a trend Bernstein hopes to reverse. Colorado State went just 1-3 in the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Shootout to open last season before embarking on its big winning streak.
"There are only a couple out-of-state tournaments that we go to, so you really have to show up and prove yourself right away. That's always a challenge for us," Bernstein said. "We don't get as much practice time as some of the other teams. It puts a little more stress on us. If you come out and do poorly in the first tournament, you have to win almost everything."
Bernstein, a WCLA first-team All-American, was the Rams' top scorer with 38 goals and nine assists through the first 16 games of 2012, according to stats provided by Colorado State coach Lindsey Hudek. That included six goals in a 13-12 victory over perennial WCLA power Santa Clara.
Hudek lauded Bernstein for her work ethic and field vision.
"The second she gets the ball, she already knows what she is going to do with it," Hudek said. "She knows exactly what's going to happen, because she's played it out in her head so many times."
Bernstein credited her lacrosse development to her friend and former teammate Brenna Mefford, who graduated last year. A fellow midfielder, Mefford had chemistry with Bernstein that made scoring easy. Mefford had 15 goals and 20 assists through the first 16 games last year.
"Basically everything I know how to do now is because I learned it from her," Bernstein said. "Without her there, it's a little disorienting."
Bernstein, a technical journalism major with a business minor, hopes to attend film school after she graduates and perform in the film industry or work in television news. She also coaches a youth lacrosse program in Fort Collins, Colo.
But before then, Bernstein will get a chance to bring a WCLA title back to Fort Collins and cap a nearly perfect four-year college career at Colorado State.
"I go against the best defenders in practice every day," she said. "I want to go out with a bang. It's my last year playing and I really want to make it count."
A version of this article appears in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.