Carla Johl aims for fourth field hockey MAC title


Junior back Carla Johl blocks a pass during a game against the Miami RedHawks last season. Photo by Jessica Yanesh.

Nick Shook

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Kent State’s Carla Johl defines what it means to be a Kent State defender. Johl, a native of Hamilton, New Zealand, has recorded four defensive saves in her career and has been named to the All-Mid-American Conference Second Team twice in her three years as a Golden Flash.

Johl isn’t the only back on defense, though. Fellow senior, teammate and roommate Amy Wimsatt has played alongside Johl for four years.

Wimsatt has gotten to know Johl better than nearly anyone. The two have roomed together since their sophomore year and share youthful personalities.

“Me and Carla are both like little kids, we always talk about how we’re 22 going on seven,” Wimsatt said with a laugh. “…We’re just the losers of the house, we keep everyone entertained I guess.”

Wimsatt has shared the same field with Johl since they both arrived on campus in the fall of 2008. Johl had an immediate impact upon the team during her freshman year. She scored the lone goal in Kent State’s 1-0 overtime victory at Michigan, a game that is a fond memory of hers.

“Carla has played the game for a long time, and she is an exceptional young woman, so I expect nothing less than her to come in here and make an impact on her team,” Kent State coach Kathleen Wiler said.

Johl was named to the All-MAC Second Team and earned MAC Defensive Player of the Week honors during her freshman season. She continued to find success during her sophomore season but was sidelined with a shoulder injury, which forced her to miss 14 games. Although she didn’t have the chance to have a major impact upon the team’s performance during much of her second year, she focused on her studies and earned her second-straight NFCHA Division I National Academic Squad nomination.

“She can keep me grounded,” Wimsatt said. “Sometimes I can flip out for stupid reasons. She can be that voice of reason, that calming, everything is going to be OK, motherly influence on me.”

Johl’s maternal complex reaches beyond calming effects; her unselfish attitude has benefitted many of her acquaintances.

“She’s a very generous person, sometimes overly-generous, and she puts everybody before herself,” Wimsatt said.

Johl’s choice of Kent State not only determined where she would attend school and play field hockey, but also influenced another New Zealand native’s decision. All-time scoring leader Debbie Bell chose to move overseas and attend Kent State after Johl’s successful visit caused her to recommend the school to Bell, who graduated from the same high school as Johl. Johl felt comfortable with Kent State as soon as she set foot on campus.

“I’ve always been a small community kind of person, and I think Kent is a big university, but it has that small community feel,” Johl said.

Playing overseas has been a challenge for Johl, who doesn’t have the opportunity to play in front of her parents every weekend. However, her teammates’ parents have taken her in as one of their own, which has helped make the adjustment to life in America easier.

“Ever since my freshman year, the American families have taken me and Debbie, and I know Bec (Rebecca Lee) too, just taken us in like we were a part of their family … I now kind of feel like I am part of these families here,” Johl said.

Johl’s family back in New Zealand influenced which path she would take in her young life. Her older brother, Matt, started playing field hockey at a young age, and Johl naturally followed in his footsteps.

“I pretty much do everything my brother does,” Johl said. “He started playing hockey when he was about seven, and so I decided ‘Well if he’s going to play, I’m going to play.’”

Matt currently attends college and plays hockey in New Zealand. Johl’s aggressive and fearless style of play likely resulted from lessons learned from her brother.

“He’s pretty much been one of my biggest role models, I’ve always looked up to him,” Johl said. “He’s the best.”

Johl’s parents, who are originally from South Africa, work in the administrative side of education. Johl’s father, Edgar, is a principal and her mother, Felicity, is a high school sports director. The two enjoy making the trip to the United States to see their daughter play.

“They love the fact that I’m here because it’s an excuse for them to travel,” Johl said.

Johl, who is in her final season at Kent State, will graduate with at least three MAC Championship rings with the possibility remaining for a fourth. When she looks back on her career as a Golden Flash, she will remember time spent with her teammates.

Johl has scored two goals in her last two games and will look to add more to her season total when Kent State travels to Athens to face the Ohio Bobcats on Friday at 3 p.m.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected] and @Shookie_Cookie.