Players from the Netherlands contributed to the success of the Ohio Wesleyan field hockey team last year, but this year’s edition of the Battling Bishops has even more of an international flair. Two players from the Netherlands returned from last year’s team, and three more international student-athletes joined the team this year, with each of the newcomers representing a different country.
Freshman defender/midfielder Floor Jansen (Zeist, the Netherlands/Utrecht Stedelyk Gymnasium), freshman defender/midfielder Veronica Hardman (Sydney, Australia/Ravenswood), and freshman forward Bolu Ogunye (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada/Cardinal Newman) chose to continue their education and field hockey careers at Ohio Wesleyan.
Senior forward Marie Overing (Amsterdam, the Netherlands/Vossius Gymnasium) and sophomore defender/midfielder Astrid Koek (Hulsberg, the Netherlands/Erasmus), who return from last year’s team, both represent the Netherlands. Overing joined the team late last season and Koek won all-region honors in her freshman year.
Jansen really wanted to play field hockey in America because she wanted to combine high-level field hockey with a good education. This encouraged her to contact an agency that specializes in helping Dutch athletes play in the United States. Her agency sent out her information and Ohio Wesleyan head coach Brenda Semit contacted her. Jansen knew after Skyping several times and seeing campus that Ohio Wesleyan was the right fit for her.
“I love how close the team is,” said Jansen. “My teammates are like family and I can ask them any question and they will always help me out.”
Jansen began playing field hockey when she was about 5 years old, whereas many American girls begin playing when they reach high school. Field hockey players in the Netherlands have limited practice time, as little as three times per week, but the sport is far more popular there.
“I was shocked at how much the girls on the team communicate with each other but it really helped during drills because they would tell me where my opponent would be,” said Jansen.
Hardman had been looking to study overseas for some time but she did not know where she wanted to go. However, when the opportunity came to play field hockey in America, she knew that was what she wanted to do. Hardman went through a recruiting agency like Jansen and was contacted by Semit.
“I was lucky enough to be able to visit OWU in December last year and when I arrived, I knew OWU was where I wanted to study and play field hockey for the next four years,” said Hardman.
Field hockey is quite a popular sport in Hardman’s native Australia, where they typically play on artificial turf, which makes the games faster in terms of passing and scoring. They play junior hockey from age nine to 17 with boys, then it splits into men’s and women’s leagues.
Ogunye found OWU while searching for schools in Ohio, as she was born in Columbus but has lived in Canada for her whole life.
“I enjoy the sense of community the team has,” said Ogunye. “Everyone is very comfortable with each other and I can go to anyone, even the coaches, about any problems that I might have.”
Field hockey in the U.S. is not extremely different from field hockey in Canada, although there are slight differences in the playing styles and the type of surface that is played upon.
“I like to believe that field hockey is field hockey and it is the same game no matter where you go,” said Ogunye.
Koek had to adjust to field hockey in America last year as well. She has been playing since she was eight years old and she likes field hockey for its diverseness.
Overing originally came to the U.S. to continue playing golf and to study at the same time. She wanted her studies to come first, so she chose to focus on Division III schools, which ultimately led her to OWU.
“Back home it is just called hockey and we all play on (artificial) turf in the Netherlands” said Overing. “The team here definitely does a lot more to be successful, and the coaches are very supportive and involved with both the sport and academics.”
Semit believes that the international players bring a lot of knowledge and competitiveness and that they understand the game very well.
“They strive to not only improve themselves every day, but they push others to do the same,” said Semit.
She mentions that it is a bit of a transition for them because the times, the surface they play on, and the environment are all different. However, the players do a really nice job helping them adjust.
“Although field hockey is played differently everywhere, the skills and the knowledge of the game remain the same,” said Semit. “We help them understand new systems and they have pretty high field hockey IQs so they understand reasonably quickly.”