Early experience pays off for Kent State midfielder

Nick Shook

Midfielder Rebecca Lee possesses one coveted advantage that most sophomore field hockey players at the Division I level don’t have: experience.

Coming off a successful 2010 season in which she was named the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, Lee has performed at a high level in the first two weeks of this season. Lee scored two goals in Kent State’s two games last weekend, helping the Flashes to their first victory of the season, a 3-2 overtime victory over UMass.

“She had a great freshman year … (she) came in assimilated really quickly,” said Kathleen Wiler, Kent State coach. “This year, (she) came back fit, ready to go, with a super-positive attitude.”

Lee started in 19 of 22 games in 2010 and has started in all four games this season. She has played 229 of the 283 total minutes this season.

“I took a lot of experience, like last year was all learning for me … I know how to do everything a lot better,” Lee said.

Her first goal of the season, an unassisted shot from the top of the circle in the 38th minute of the game at Iowa, put Kent State on the scoreboard for only the second time in 2011. The goal set off an offensive explosion, led by senior Debbie Bell, who scored two goals in the Flashes’ loss before scoring another goal, a game-winning overtime shot, in the following game against Massachusetts.

Lee’s goal against Iowa built confidence in her ability to score, which is something she hopes to build upon in the rest of the season.

“I have confidence that I can score goals, so now I know that I can score goals,” Lee said. “Hopefully in every game after this, I can continue scoring.”

Lee, a native of Bathurst, Australia, took some time acclimating to life in the U.S. as a freshman.

“There’s a lot of things that are different, like walking on the different side of the path,” Lee said. “I’m always getting into trouble because I’m always bumping into people.

“We don’t have college like this in Australia. We don’t have college sports, so it’s an honor to be able to play in something like this, because unless you make the Australian team, you don’t really get the experience to have games and training like this, so I just love the experience.”

The biggest difference between life in Bathurst and in Kent is where she lays her head down to sleep at night.

“I’m not really at home here, I’m in dorms,” Lee said with a laugh.

If life in the U.S. is a bit unfamiliar to Lee, she is surely at home on the field hockey pitch.

“I started (playing) when I was 6, with all of my sisters. We started at the same time and I just loved it … It just came natural to me.”

Lee’s father, Robert, competed in kayaking in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. There is no shortage of athleticism in Lee’s family, and that is on display each time she steps onto the field.

“She’ll say ‘Coach, wherever you want me to go, I’ll go,’” Wiler said. “She’d do anything for the team.”

Lee is a psychology major, but is also minoring in American Sign Language.

“I want to be a psychologist because I want to help people,” she said. “I think I want to be a school counselor, and it probably doesn’t seem like it, but I like talking to people and I want to help people. Sign language, I feel, is a really good skill to have and that will give me a little head start, because I have different skills.”

Despite three early losses, Lee is encouraged by the improvement that she and her teammates displayed during their victory over the Minutewomen.

“I feel a little bit disappointed so far, but we ended on a win, so I hope that continues,” Lee said. “We got the loss out of our system.

“I thought my own game was good, I had really good ball control. I felt that I was in my zone,” she said.

Lee and the rest of the Flashes will travel to Pennsylvania Friday to face the Lock Haven Lady Eagles at 4 p.m. The second game of their Pennsylvania trip will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday in Philadelphia, Pa. against the Temple Owls.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].