Even though she would never say it, Cape Henlopen’s four consecutive field hockey state championships would have never hit two if it wasn’t for Tess Bernheimer.
Freshman year: Not seeing much of the field before a substitution, Bernheimer struck a shot at the top of the circle past the Caravel goalkeeper to give Cape a 2-1 lead after 54 minutes of play in the semifinal. The Vikings won 2-1 and went on to defeat Delmar 2-1 for their second-straight title.
Sophomore year: Bernheimer one-upped herself. She scored the lone goal in the 1-0 title win against Delmar.
Junior year: Backs against the wall yet again, Cape’s most dramatic comeback occurred versus its biggest rival. Playing Sussex Tech in the quarterfinals, Cape went down 2-0 in the first half. The Vikings waited util the very last second to take the 3-2 win when Bernheimer hit the back of the cage with four seconds left.
Senior year: She’s not saying what will happen next. If it results in a fifth-consecutive title for Cape, the first time that’s ever happened in DIAA history, Bernheimer will quietly have something to do with it.
In fact, Bernheimer doesn’t say much at all. She does, however, score big goals without drawing attention to herself.
Reflecting on the goals, Bernheimer said she was calm in each situation, crediting her teammates. She was just doing her part, whether as a substitute against Caravel, finishing a pass into an open net against Delmar or making one last charge up the field against Tech.
“It wasn’t as big a shock as it seems to be,” Bernheimer said. “I’d been playing with my sister’s age group (Camryn, two years older) basically my whole life. I think that it was an easier transition since I had been playing with them so long.”
Her ability to lead by example may be an even greater quality than her knack for scoring big goals.
Whenever head coach Kate Austin drove past Cape Henlopen this summer, she happened to spot Bernheimer practicing.
The senior has already secured a scholarship to play field hockey at Drexel, but that hasn’t slowed her work ethic.
“She doesn’t say much,” Austin said. “She leaves it on the field, and I think that her work ethic is definitely an example for the rest of the team. Her skill level is what a lot of girls strive to get to.”
That kind of attitude has rippled through the team and its other four senior captains: Lizzie Frederick, Lexi Gooch, midfielder Erin Coverdale and forward Syndey Ostroski.
They all have their significant leadership quality, Frederick said. Defenders Frederick and Gooch are vocal, Coverdale is approachable, Ostroski is a hustler and, of course, Bernheimer leads by example.
“She definitely has that drive,” Coverdale said. “She isn’t cocky but she should be, because she’s amazing player. She definitely stands in the corner and leads by example.”
Her speed on and off the ball is what makes Bernheimer so dangerous, Coverdale said.
Cape will need Bernheimer and the rest of the team to continue its run. Austin said Polytech has its stars returning, Delmar was young last year and good, Tech is always a challenge, Padua didn’t lose much and Tower Hill is young and promising.
The Vikings might need a younger player to step up like Bernheimer has in the past. They have two freshmen and plenty of sophomores on the team who could be likely candidates.
Bernheimer always said she wasn’t nervous because she had the seniors to rely on. Now, she’ll be the senior her teammates rely on, and Austin said she’s even better than before.
“She’s a leader everywhere,” Austin said. “She’s blowing by people.”
If one of those players happens to get the big goal this year, they will very likely credit the senior leadership, which will go to Bernheimer and the others.
But just as before, Bernheimer will shy away, giving the props to the team.
The most impressive feat of them all.
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