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Be like Bettcher: DL senior learns life lessons after being sidelined with ACL injury, commits to UWEC

Detroit Lakes' Alex Bettcher was honored during the team's senior night celebration last Friday at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse before the regular-season finale

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Detroit Lakes' Alex Bettcher leads the pregame speech on the court on senior night at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse on Feb. 25, 2022 before the Lakers took on Crosby-Ironton. Bettchr sat out the 2021-22 season with an ACL injury. She committed to play college basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Feb. 21, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES – Alex Bettcher greeted each Detroit Lakes starting basketball player with a signature handshake during the team's starting lineup announcements before each game this season. Last Friday, her teammates ditched their pregame rituals and gave her hugs instead.

It was senior night at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse where Detroit Lakes handled Crosby-Ironton in their final game of the regular season. The Lakers honored their only rostered senior before pregame warmups in front of Bettcher's family, friends and Laker fans. What set this year's annual celebration apart from the rest is Bettcher didn't play a single second for Detroit Lakes this season.

In June of 2021, Bettcher tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at a basketball camp shortly after the end of the high school track and field season. It's an injury that sidelined one of Detroit Lakes' best soccer and basketball players for the entirety of the fall and winter seasons.

"I went down, and my body went into shock," Bettcher said. "I didn't realize how bad it was until I stood up and tried to sit down on the side. My leg just gave out. The athletic trainer couldn't say for sure what happened, but I knew it was serious. You know your body as an athlete, and I knew it wasn't looking too good."

Despite not being able to compete, Bettcher announced on Feb. 21 that she would be attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to play Division III basketball. Ironically, she plans on studying rehabilitation science.

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Detroit Lakes' Alex Bettcher inbounds the ball during the Lakers' warmup drill on Feb. 25, 2022 at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It sounds cliche, but when I stepped on campus, I fell in love with it," Bettcher said. "I loved the school first, and the basketball was a bonus. It's fitting for the career I want to go into as well."

Recruiting has changed in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. College athletes have been granted extra years of eligibility across all levels to make up for canceled seasons. The NCAA recently approved a new transfer rule, where all athletes can transfer across divisions one time without a penalty. These changes to the collegiate athletic landscape have made it very challenging for some athletes to earn a spot at the next level.

Bettcher stayed confident that she would still get a chance to play college basketball despite not playing her senior season and a few wrenches got thrown into her recruiting process.

"It's a two-way street," Bettcher said of recruiting. "You have to keep reaching out even when things don't look great. I focused on getting better first. At the end of the day, I'm happy with my decision. It was later in the process when they called me. They called during the soccer season. It turns out I love it there and am really excited to get there next year."

Bettcher is a talented forward who was certainly missed by the Lakers in her senior season. Detroit Lakes head coach Rachel Johnson is excited to see what she will do at the next level.

"They're going to get somebody that's really excited to get back on the court," Johnson said. "She's going to continue having the same personality she has here. She's smiley and goofy, but also knows when to be serious when the going gets tough. I'm really excited to see her go off to college and get back on the court. She's just a great player."

Learning how to lead

Ask about Bettcher to her teammates or coaches, and they will rave about what she can do on the court. But it's what she does that can't be found in the box score that sets her apart—being on the sidelines for both soccer and basketball has taught her how to be a better leader.

"It's definitely been a learning curve," Bettcher said on being sidelined. "The biggest thing I've learned is to not take things for granted, even with something like walking. The day-to-day activities can be taken away so fast and so easily. You don't realize that until you go through it. Play every game like it's your last. At the end of the day, it's all you can really do."

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Throughout the season, Bettcher has helped a young team take steps forward throughout an up-and-down season. The Lakers started 1-7 before finishing 11-12 with the third seed in the Section 8-3A tournament.

"It's incredibly important to have her around," Johnson said. "She's kind of become the fifth coach on the team. When we go into halftime, the other coaches and I only have about four or five minutes left to say anything by the time she's done talking. She hits a lot of things on the head… It's important for the girls to see that even though she's not always at practice, she's always rehabbing and working hard. To have someone that can pull a whole bunch of kids together and be the glue is something really special."

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Detroit Lakes' Elle Bettcher, right, hugs her sister, Alex Bettcher, during the starting lineup announcements at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse on Feb. 25, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Her connection with her teammates is what Bettcher is going to miss most about being a Laker.

"I think all of the girls came up to me throughout the day, and I just started crying," Bettcher said last Friday. "This whole day was a rollercoaster... You can always choose to look at things from the positive or the negative side. The people around me helped me keep a positive outlook on everything. I'm extremely grateful for them, and I wouldn't be here without them."

Bettcher didn't anticipate this being the kind of senior year she’d have when she first threw on a Detroit Lakes jersey. Despite some challenges, she doesn't have any regrets and is very excited to get back to competing in track and field in the spring.

"I wouldn't change what happened to me," Bettcher said. "It's taught me so many things on and off the court that you don't realize until you go through something like this. I think it's got me to understand different aspects of the game and life."

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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