July 23, 2012
By Doug Drabik
Summers are typically a time of rest and relaxation for a college student, unless you are Betsy Hassett.
The senior on the California women's soccer team has spent her last three summers in Chile, South Korea, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. Last summer, Hassett traveled around the world leading up to an extended stay in Germany where she was a starter for her home country of New Zealand at the FIFA Women's World Cup.
Hassett continues to accumulate frequent flyer miles, touring much of the country with her Cal squad and the globe with her New Zealand team. Her final destination this summer will be London and the 2012 Olympic Games.
"It has been so much fun," Hassett said of her journey. "I am so motivated right now for the Olympics. This has been my dream and my goal since I was so young, and I can't believe I am about to live out my dream."
This past fall, the midfielder played in all 22 matches with 18 starts for Cal, guiding the Golden Bears to their most victories in four years (12) and the second round of the NCAA Championship. Hassett, who recorded three assists during the season, was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection and more importantly a National Soccer Coaches Association Scholar All-American.
"We are very proud of Betsy and all that she has accomplished," said Cal women's soccer coach Neil McGuire. "She is a committed student-athlete who works very hard to perform at a high level on the field and in the classroom."
Hassett has meticulously budgeted her extremely busy schedule of academic coursework requirements and collegiate and international competition, resulting in a 3.47 cumulative grade-point average. The social welfare major earned a spot on the Pac-12 All-Academic squad for the second consecutive year last season.
"It is quite difficult to balance everything, but my professors here at Cal have been very good with helping me organize everything and allowing me to take exams on the road," Hassett said. "I have been away for half of the spring semester. It has been a fun and busy journey."
With her junior year at Cal now complete, Hassett flew back to New Zealand to spend time with her family and the national team. The New Zealand squad, called the Football Ferns, will face China twice in New Zealand and travel to Australia for a pair of matches before heading to Switzerland to continue training prior to arriving in London for the Olympics.
Hassett and her New Zealand teammates won't have much time to enjoy their time in London before getting underway with competition. The Football Ferns will open the games of the XXX Olympiad as the very first event of the 16-day celebration of athletic competition.
Two days prior to the opening ceremonies on July 25, New Zealand will open group play against Great Britain at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The Football Ferns will then face Brazil and Cameroon before the medal rounds begin.
"It is crazy," Hassett said. "It hadn't really hit me yet until the draw was pulled. I can't believe how fast it will be here."
While this summer will mark Hassett's first appearance in the Olympics, the Auckland native is no stranger to the exciting, high-pressure environment that surrounds international soccer.
Hassett first picked up a soccer ball at the age of four, following in her brother's footsteps in taking up the game at a young age. She enjoyed success in the sport early on, which eventually led to a spot on the Under-20 New Zealand National Team. Hassett spent 2008 at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Chile and 2010 at the same event in Germany.
She made her debut with the Senior National Team on June 16, 2008, in a match against Argentina in South Korea.
"My first touch on the ball, I got wasted by this player when going for a free ball," Hassett said. "That was my first real taste of action. I entered in the second half, and I will always remember the crazy environment and the crowd at the stadium."
Hassett also vividly remembers the outcome and the reward she and her teammates received for their strong play against a tough Argentina squad.
"We beat them 1-0, it was really exciting," Hassett explained. "After the match, the coaches took us all out to get a McFlurry."
Hassett wanted to challenge herself against some of the top soccer players in the world, so she sent a DVD of several highlights of her playing in New Zealand to several universities on the West Coast of the United States because it was closest to her native land.
McGuire called and eventually offered Hassett a scholarship to come to Berkeley. The midfielder arrived in the summer prior to her freshman year of school in 2009. However, a severe leg injury limited her training during her first year.
"I wasn't fit and ready to play yet," Hassett said. "I started doing rehab in the summer while I adapted to the environment. I had problems with the leg the whole season."
Three seasons later, she has developed into one of the top players in the Pac-12 Conference and will be looked upon as a leader for the Golden Bears her senior year this fall.
"It has been an awesome experience and a great three years," Hassett said. "It has gone by so fast though. I have my best friends here."
Now training overseas with her New Zealand team, Hassett recalls all the great moments, including last year's World Cup. She started all three matches for the Football Ferns and, at 21 years old, has more than 25 international matches under her belt.
"It was so much fun to play for my country in front of thousands of people," Hassett said. "We stayed in the same hotel as the other teams, so we were following the USA around. I saw Alex [Morgan] a lot of the time."
Hassett and Morgan, now a star for the U.S. team, played together for two seasons at Cal in 2009 and 2010. Recently, the two Bears faced off as New Zealand and USA met in an exhibition match in Texas this past spring.
The Football Ferns took a one-goal lead into the late stages of the match, but Morgan scored a pair of goals in the final minutes to give the United States the win playing in front of 20,667 fans.
With training now mostly complete, Hassett and her New Zealand teammates are looking forward to getting the Olympic competition underway in late July.
"We are really close and have heaps of fun together," said a smiling Hassett. "We bring the best out of each other. It is so fun just to hang out together. We will be together for a whole month before we head to London and I can't wait. I am looking forward to the whole experience and sharing it all with my teammates."
Hassett and her fellow Football Ferns will be very busy during the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games with matches in pool play days apart in late July and early August. She will also share another special moment during her first couple games in London. Her birthday is Aug. 4.
When asked how she was planning to celebrate the occasion, Hassett quickly replied, "we should be hopefully heading to the quarterfinals by then."
This story originally appeared in the summer 2012 issue of the Cal Sports Quarterly.