New Zealand senior finds lifelong friends on the KSU field hockey team

Senior forward and New Zealand native Debbie Bell has been a scoring staple for the Golden Flashes since she joined the team in 2008. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Senior forward and New Zealand native Debbie Bell has been a scoring staple for the Golden Flashes since she joined the team in 2008. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Nick Shook

Kent State senior Debbie Bell has experienced varying levels of success as a member of the Flashes’ field hockey team.

As a freshman, Bell started 15 of Kent State’s 22 games. She quickly found her comfort zone on the field by doing what she does best — scoring goals. Bell scored 21 goals, a team-high, in her first season in the United States. She was named the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year and earned first team All-MAC honors.

Fast-forward to Bell’s senior year, and the Flashes (2-4) are off to a less-than-stellar start. However, after starting the season on a three-game losing streak, Kent State has regained its winning form, recording victories in two of their last three games. Bell’s performance has had much to do with the Flashes recent success, as she has scored five of Kent State’s past 12 goals.

“Scoring goals is just what I do … it’s part of my job,” Bell said.

Bell has consistently scored goals since the beginning of her collegiate career, and moved into first place on Kent State’s all-time scoring leaders list in 2010. With 82 career goals scored, Bell hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Although she quickly acclimated on the field during her freshman season, the New Zealand native’s adjustment to life in the United States off the field wasn’t quite as simple.

Luckily for Bell, her American teammates helped ease the adjustment period. Teammate Amy Wimsatt lived in the same dormitory building as Bell, and the two ended up as roommates in an off-campus house during their junior and senior years.

“After a few weeks, we were able to be friends,” Wimsatt said. “It wasn’t so easy in the beginning. There was a culture barrier.”

By the end of their first preseason, their differences in culture became insignificant as the two became friendly.

“I really, really struggled with the change,” Bell said. “It was difficult.”

The Game:

  • Kent State (2-4) vs. Ohio State (2-5)
  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m.
  • Where: Murphy-Mellis Field

“We just started talking about things we liked,” Wimsatt said. “New Zealand’s not as different as us, and we just realized that we can teach each other a lot.”

Bell and Wimsatt’s four years as roommates allowed them to become close, and the two spend “too much time together,” Wimsatt said with a laugh.

The two share a nearly unbreakable bond, a strength that has benefited the team, both on and off the field.

“We’re always there for each other, on the field and off the field,” Wimsatt said. “If there’s problems on or off the field, we can talk about it. We’re there strong, together, to be there for the whole team, so we’re united for the whole team to come to us. We’re kind of rocks for each other. We can talk things through.”

Bell and her roommates let their incoming freshman teammates stay at their house during the preseason, before the dorms opened on campus. The gesture was just one of many that she and her fellow seniors have made toward the younger players in order to help them become more comfortable at Kent State.

“She’s a really good teammate,” Kent State coach Kathleen Wiler said. “I think she really does take the young kids under her wing.”

Wimsatt spent Christmas break in New Zealand with Bell and teammate Carla Johl during their sophomore year.

“It was really cool,” Wimsatt said. “It’s a totally different world over there, but it was really cool to be exposed to something like that, and to have that opportunity.”

Bell arrived at Kent State thanks, in part, to Johl, who attended the same high school as Bell in Hamilton, New Zealand.

“My recruiting process was a little different than everybody else’s,” said Bell. “… They were still looking for one more international (player) and her (Johl’s) mom gave one of the coaches my name, and that’s how I ended up here.”

Bell signed with and enrolled at Kent State without ever taking an official visit. Instead, she went on the advice of Johl, who did make the trip to Northeast Ohio before making a decision on where she would attend college.

“As soon as I stepped foot into America, I felt like I was at home,” Bell said.

Before Bell can begin thinking about entering coaching after her playing days are over, she first has goals that she hopes to accomplish on the field, including winning Kent State’s fourth-straight regular season MAC championship, and third MAC tournament championship in four years.

“We’re really just getting started,” Bell said. “Every day in practice we walk off the field more cohesive and understanding each other’s play better. I think this season holds a lot of promise for us; we’re a team that can go a long way.”

While Bell’s legacy at Kent State will be counted by how many titles the team won and how many goals she scored, Wiler said there is little doubt to the impact Bell had on the team.

“Debbie Bell is probably one of the toughest women to ever put on a Kent State field hockey uniform,” Wiler said.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].