Alexis Betker treated last spring as if it was a gift because that’s what it was.
It was last March when the forward for the Park High School girls soccer team was wondering whether she would ever get to play again for the Panthers. After exceptional freshman and sophomore seasons, Betker had been deprived of adding to her legacy in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But when her senior season was salvaged, Betker picked up where she left off. Ranking among the top 10 in the state in points for the third time in her high school, Betker went on to be voted the All-Racine County Player of the Year by the county’s coaches.
Betker received five votes, Waterford sophomore Taylor Gordon had three and Horlick junior Morgan Lock received one.
“This means a lot to me,” Betker wrote in an email from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., where she is a freshman on the women’s soccer team. “I have worked for this for the past four years and it shows with hard work, you can put whatever you put your mind to.”
Dedication was never an issue for Betker. Simply getting the chance to play was because of the pandemic.
“The pandemic made my last two years of high school soccer challenging,” Betker wrote. “My junior year, I was extremely disappointed when the entire soccer season got cancelled due to the pandemic. Missing a year was hard because not only did I miss out on the soccer part of the game, I also missed out on playing with my teammates and the memories we made.
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“My senior year, we we weren’t sure if we were going to get a season, but thankfully, we got season. It was difficult, though. because we had to wear a mask and we did not get the numbers we were expecting.”
But Betker made the most out of a difficult situation. Despite only having 13 players, the Panthers went 9-6-1 and advanced to a WIAA Division 1 regional championship. Kenosha Bradford/Reuther ended Park’s season with a 6-0 victory.
Park coach Matt Maletis, who stepped down as coach after last season, will remember Betker for three matches in particular:
- On May 3, 2019, Park was trailing Catholic Central 3-0 with about 15 minutes left in the Union Grove Invitational. And then, Betker recalls, “Alexis put on a show. She scored four goals with pure desire.!” Park savaged a 4-4 tie out of what appeared to be a certain loss.
- On May 29, 2019, Park was trailing Horlick 6-2 in the second half of a regional semifinal at Horlick’s Levonian Field. Betker and Mikayla Smith each produced three goals and three assists and Park went on to win 8-7 on penalty kicks. Betker made one penalty kick and then made two saves as goakleeper, setting up Lainie Sanders’ game-winning penalty kick.
- In Betker’s penultimate game for Park, the Panthers were leading Case 3-1 on a hot day at Pritchard Park on June 8. Park, playing with just two substitutes, allowed Case to tie the score. And then, Maletis said, “Tired legs and overheated, Alexis broke through for the game winner in another playoff win!”
That those performances are what put Betker in a nutshell for Maletis.
“I’ve seen this effort in every match and practice she ever had for me, as he drive was absolutely unparalleled,” Maletis said. “Those three matches, however displayed to anyone witnessing the thrill to see a talented soccer player do something very special on the soccer pitch.”
And now Betker is trying to add another chapter to her soccer career at Western Illinois, which gave her an athletic scholarship. She’s off to a slow start considering she has only played 21 minutes this fall, but Betker knows better days are ahead.
“College soccer is going well so far,” she said. “I am almost done with my freshman season and I have enjoyed all the time I have been up here so far. I really enjoy playing with my teammates and have learned a lot from my coaches.
“It is a much higher level of soccer and the expectations are much higher, but I love all the hard work that it requires. I have learned so much during my time here so far and I can’t wait to continue my next three years.
“I know all my hard work will pay off and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”