Bree Bednarski was known for her speed at Wyoming Area. Her wheels helped her win three District 2 Track and Field gold medals in her senior season. They also helped her to be named an all-state centerfielder in softball.
Those wheels have now made her a key figure with the nationally-ranked University of Michigan field hockey team. Through seven games, Bednarski has started in two for the No. 5 Wolverines and scored one goal and one assist. She has eight shots on goal from her forward position.
She’s been doing this while transitioning from the high-powered Wyoming Valley Conference to the extremely competitive NCAA Divsion 1 field hockey ranks.
“It’s a lot more competitive and intense than high school,” she said. “I’m adjusting pretty well.”
Bednarski and the Wolverines were thrown into the fire in the opening game this season. Against the top-ranked team in the country, Michigan earned a 1-0 win over the University of North Carolina on Aug. 27. Emma Way scored on a penalty corner as time expired to give the then-ranked No. 10 Wolverines the win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
It was Michigan’s first win over a No. 1 team since 2001 and its first win against UNC since 2002.
Following a loss to No. 7 Wake Forest where Bednarski recorded her first two shots of her career, she put two shots on goal in a win over No. 11 Stanford.
Then came her first career goal.
Against unranked University of California, the freshman accepted a pass from senior captain Eliza Stein on the left side and drove the goal home just before the 60-minute mark. Her parents, she said, watched the game on the Pac-12 channel.
“That was so exciting,” Bednarski said. “Everyone was celebrating and I could never have done any of that without my teammates.”
Michigan head coach Marcia Pankratz noted Bednarski’s speed has helped her make a smooth transition. Pankratz, who has coach Michigan for 17 seasons and led the Wolverines to the NCAA title in 2001, said field hockey has changed over the past several years to a faster game.
“Her ability to score and her attacking mentality has proven she’s a game-changing goal scorer,” Pankratz said. “We knew she would adapt well. It’s not easy to start college in a big school like Michigan.”
While starting just two of the seven games, playing time is balanced on the team. The Wolverines are “very deep and versatile,” Pankratz said. Michigan rotates all game long, keeping legs fresh throughout the game.
“It’s all about confidence as a freshman,” she said. “When she starts really feeling more confident she will be a real game changer.”
Storied career at Wyoming Area
While Bednarski’s career is off to a fast start at Michigan, her heroics at Wyoming Area can’t be over looked. She’ll go down as one of the best all-around athletes to come through the school in Exeter.
And it doesn’t matter what sport it was.
In her field hockey days for the Warriors, Bednarski scored 127 career goals and had 12 assists. She led the WVC in scoring in her junior and senior seasons. Bednarski was named all-state three times, while setting a Pennsylvania single-season record for 67 goals as a senior.
On the track, she was named the Times Leader Track and Field Athlete of the Year following her impressive senior season. She won District 2 gold in the 100, 200 and 400 relay, and was a silver medalist in javelin. She holds the Wyoming Area record in all four events.
In centerfield for the softball Warriors, Bednarski was named first-team all-state as a junior.
Bednarski said participating in other sports was a good distraction from field hockey.
“It really helped me not get overloaded with field hockey,” she said. “It was something fun to do, and I didn’t have to have field hockey on the brain all the time.”
Enjoying the college experience
At Michigan, most of Bednarski’s time is dedicated to field hockey and academics. She’s currently enrolled in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the midwest school. She is undecided on a major at this time.
She said the academic transition has been good so far, and should get much better once the season is over. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t had time to enjoy the experience. She said she attended the football team’s 45-28 win over Colorado on Sept. 17 and The Big House.
“I tried to get all of my classes in the morning, with practice in the afternoon,” she said. “We have such a helpful staff and it’s been going pretty well.”
Bednarski is the daughter of Joe and Lyn Bednarski, Wyoming, and she has a sister, Drew, and a brother, Bret.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick