Saige Berkowicz does not mind being bombarded by shots when she’s in the cage during a field hockey game.
When the Lenape Valley senior goalie is in that situation, she knows it’s her chance to shine.
“When I'm playing a very heavily-skilled team or well-oiled machine in the high school sense, I do start treating it as if I was in a national tournament or playing a nationally-ranked club team,” Berkowicz said. “I say to myself, ‘The end result of that game doesn't matter, as long as you try your best.’
“Make sure you remember the basics, make sure that you don't get scared of something, say a hard shot to the helmet or something like that. You can control the goal differential.”
As with everything she’s done in her high school career, Berkowicz is committed whole-heartedly to excelling in her role. Whether it’s the German Folk Club, DECA or on the field hockey field, the Patriots senior channels her passion and puts it on display.
Lenape Valley’s 2020 Pass It Along scholar athlete has invested thousands of hours competing in the sport, participating in year-round clinics and playing for a club team from the time she was 10 years old, so she’s completely comfortable in net.
The bad habits have been chiseled out of her repertoire and she can focus on cutting down angles as opposing teams bear down on her.
Berkowicz enjoys the challenge of taking on local teams like Newton and Hackettstown which have a history of contending for tri-county and state titles on a yearly basis.
“These are the games where I will have flying save, I will have a lot of specific coming out moments and have a lot of tackles and key saves that keep us in the game and keep the goal differential down,” Berkowicz said. “If we do get penalty strokes or anything like that, it is a big key that I block those and I have blocked those in the past, which is really, really nice.”
Berkowicz has been the Patriots goalie for the last three seasons, stopping more than 150 shots in each campaign. She followed in the footsteps of her mother, Carissa, who also played goalie for Lenape Valley.
During Berkowicz’s junior year, she was First Team All-Herald as she helped lead Lenape Valley to an undefeated NJAC Colonial Division title.
With her club team, Total Dutch, she has taken on teams across the nation including top-ranked squads on the U-16 and U-19 levels. Berkowicz has committed to play for The College of New Jersey starting next fall.
“It definitely helps me a lot because it helps me with my mental state and my skill-set,” Berkowicz said. “I'm able to take those faster plays, so then when I get to college, people who can aerial the ball from one 25 to other or drag flick it from the top of the circle, I'm ready for those shots.”
At Lenape Valley, Berkowicz is also a member of the National and German Honors Societies.
After her school day, which features a Syracuse University college course in creative nonfiction, AP Human Geography and her fourth year of German, Berkowicz enjoys expressing her love for music along with her German heritage and its language.
In the German Folk Club, Berkowicz — who also plays the bass clarinet — has become the female dance master after four years and teaches the club’s other members particular folk dances that they have gone on to perform at the Sparta Christmas Market and Seton Hall University.
“(The Blacksmith) is very fun and easy to dance and teach,” Berkowicz said. “The other ones like the knot or the man in the hay are so intricate and require so much practice. Once you do it perfectly and without any flaws, it feels like such an accomplishment. Once you perform it and hear the applause after it, it feels so good.”
The love of the German language also netted Berkowicz an honorable mention in the category of German advance during the German Poetry Recital at William Paterson University. She hopes to continue studying the language at TCNJ, where she plans to major in health and exercise science.
Berkowicz has also been heavily involved in DECA for the last four years, competed regionally and qualifying to compete at the state level in each of the last two years.
This year, in particular, Berkowicz put what she has learned in the accounting field to the test, solving problems in a role-playing competition in which she took second at the regional level.
“I knew exactly how to do the basic math to get the net profits and net income and everything that I needed so that I do have solid numbers,” Berkowicz said. “I also have an understanding of what software I can use and how to break up different accounts that a business may need or different assets and liabilities that they might want to create.”
Later this year, Berkowicz will take to the lacrosse field for her fourth season in the spring. Berkowicz, who plays defense, has played defense for the JV team over the last three seasons and also assisted with varsity stats.
Now, she’ll be adding another varsity sport to her resume, even if her greatest passion still remains between the posts.
Berkowicz has already made her mark as a goalie at the high school level, and now she’ll take everything she has learned to look to have success in college.
“I'm very thankful for my parent's support and my coaches' support on both the club and high school (field hockey) levels,” Berkowicz said. “Because my mother played field hockey in high school, she's the one that got me into the pads, and for that, I'm forever grateful.”