Field hockey’s Johl “does the work”

The Kent State field hockey defenders always write their goals on their hands before every game. But junior Carla Johl writes something extra.

“On my wrist, I write ‘Do the mahi,’ which means ‘Do the work,’” Johl explained. “It’s just a saying that’s been brought over from back home that we used to say on my high school team.”

Back home is Hamilton, New Zealand, and the word “mahi” comes from the language of the M?oris, the native people of New Zealand.

Since she joined the Flashes in 2008, Johl has been “doing the work.”

The fullback leads the defense with nine career goals, tying freshman Rebecca Lee for the fourth-most on the team.

“It is unusual for defenders to score goals,” Johl said. “But at the same time, we often push through and can score. (Junior back) Amy Wimsatt has scored some goals. (Senior) Rachel Miller is a back, and she’s put in a lot of goals.

“So for our team, it’s not that unusual.”

Especially for a player in the penalty corner unit.

“I’m really lucky to be a part of the penalty corner unit,” Johl explained. “Being a part of that gives me that opportunity you don’t get as a defender to put goals in the back of the net.”

Six of Johl’s career goals came off penalty corners, including one against Central Michigan on Sunday.

Johl also got more of an opportunity to score when the coaches bumped her up to midfield about halfway through this season. Kent State coach Kathleen Wiler said the move was made to rotate Johl and Miller between the back and midfield positions.

Now, Johl can defend and attack, which she said is “the best of both worlds.”

“Carla is such a versatile player,” Wiler said. “That’s her biggest attribute. I trust that I could put her anywhere on the field, and she will continue to prove herself as a strong field hockey player.”

Even as a midfielder, Johl’s playing style still involves quickly passing to other players as soon as she gets a hold of the ball, a result of her defensive background.

“I always look for a good pass and distribute it,” Johl said. “I’d rather give it off to (junior forward) Debbie Bell or (senior forward) Nicole Leach and let them do the goal-scoring.”

This embedded defensive playing style comes from her years of experience in the backfield.

“Defender is sort of where I’ve always been,” Johl said. “When I started playing field hockey (at age six), I was up front. But they’ve slowly moved me backwards.”

With a view of the entire field, Johl said being a fullback makes it easier to control her game.

“It’s a real distribution position,” Johl said. “One of my favorite skills is passing, so that’s why I like it.”

A self-proclaimed “feisty” defender, Johl is usually the first in the backfield to shut down a breakaway.

“You’ve got to love stopping the opposition when they’re trying to score,” she said with a laugh. “It’s fun being able to make really good tackles. It makes me feel good.”

Although she sometimes leaves the back for midfield, Johl said she does not know if it will become her new, permanent position.

“I can’t even answer that question,” Wiler said with a laugh.

But no matter where Johl ends up on the field, she will continue to “do the mahi.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].