By Frank Rizzo
MONTICELLO August 17, 2001 After college, most of us have a tenuous relationship with our alma mater.
But this is not always the case if you were part of intercollegiate athletics at the University of North Carolina, as was Betsy Johnson Conaty of Monticello.
A soccer standout at both UNC and Eldred Central School, Conaty played on the Lady Tar Heels first NCAA championship team in 1982 and won two more championships in her four years there.
(UNCs lady booters had won a national title the year before Conaty attended in the now-defunct Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women or AIAW).
It was the first of many titles for the Lady Tar Heel booters, coached the past 22 seasons by Anson Dorrance and Bill Palladino (see article, page 9B).
Our coaches [stress] the concept that were a family, not only when were there but when were gone, Conaty said recently in her office at the Monticello Neighborhood facility, where she runs the villages Department of Parks and Recreation. They really encourage us to come back and stay in touch. Ive been going to the soccer camp [at UNC] for the last eight years and they love it when I come down. They call up to make sure Im coming down.
Conaty said she and the rest of that first group are held in high regard as the starters of the dynasty.
When we go back the current players say, You dont know how much [Dorrance] talks about you guys and what you guys started that has made it for us, Conaty said.
Conaty made note of the Tar Heel mystique:
You always read about Michael Jordan wearing the UNC shorts underneath his Bulls uniform, she said. (Golfer) Davis Love, too. And I dont know if its something with North Carolina, or the athletic department in general, but they try to keep you there and make you a part of it all.
Besides her three national championship rings at UNC, Conaty also was tabbed Rookie of the Year as a freshman and team captain as senior, and was an All-American Midfield MVP of the NCAA Tournament.
Making Use of Connection
In her tenure at the UNC girls soccer camp, Conaty has always asked fellow alumni and camp coaching staff if they could do her own All-American Soccer Academy, which she has run in various venues around Sullivan County for the past nine years.
But until this year it has never happened.
When Conatys camp was held the week of July 16-20 at the Town of Thompson Park, two UNC alumni were on hand for the last day.
Mike Velez played for the UNCs mens soccer team while Rakel Karvellson was a member of the Lady Tar Heels and now plays for the Philadelphia Charge of the womens professional soccer league, WUSA.
Rakel and Mike really enjoyed it. They liked the camp and the area, said Conaty. They swear theyll come back next year and Rakel said shell bring some teammates.
Karvellson said she holds dual citizenship, Iceland and the United States, and has played several games for the Icelandic national soccer team. She was on the field when Iceland tied the defending world champion United States in a friendly game.
Karvellson handed out the camps trophies. In the youth academy, Garrett Owen of Callicoon won the Most Valuable Player award for the second straight year. Zach Siegel of Monticello was the Most Improved, while the Sportsmanship Award went to Brienne Yeomans of Pennsylvania.
In the senior academy, Taylor Diuguid of Eldred took the MVP honors while Andrew Babula of Eldred was the Most Improved and the Sportsmanship award went to Elyse OMara of Jeffersonville.
Improving the Camp
One of the reasons I love going back to North Carolina is to see what I can bring back because they're always doing new techniques and new drills, Conaty said. Each year the coaches and I sit down on a daily basis after camp and talk about what worked, what didnt work, what we can change. We can try a lot of things but have to be aware of the disparity of the talent level.
The toughest thing in the camp situation is that we want to challenge our best players, she added. But at the same time we dont want to bury the lesser-skilled players and we want them to feel good about themselves and they came away with something.
Conaty is hopeful the presence of Karvellson and other UNC alumni will continue in the future.
Rakel had a good time. She was really impressed with the number of coaches we had, the staff to student ratio, Conaty said. The Town of Thompson Park is a nice setting.