Bell headed to Mansfield

Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Belleville Mennonite School senior Olivia Bell, front center, signed her letter of intent Wednesday to play field hockey at Mansfield University. Joining Bell are, from left, front, parents Steve and Kristel; back, Chelsea Sarra, Huntingdon High School field hockey coach; Kaitlin Byler, Bell’s sister; Steph Hoffman, BMS athletic director; and Starla Fogelman, BMS superintendent. Byler and Bell were part of BMS’ 2016 District 6 championship team.

BELLEVILLE — The passion Belleville Mennonite student-athlete Olivia Bell has for field hockey is undeniable. Her enthusiasm and skill level is the reason why the senior midfielder will continue playing at the next level.

Bell signed her letter-of-intent to play field hockey at Division II Mansfield University Wednesday afternoon at the Thunder gymnasium surrounded by family, friends and coaches. The reason she chose the Mountaineers was a simple one — the personality of Coach Brittany Hansrote.

“The coach is very personable and I hadn’t experienced that on any other college tour. That made it the real deal for me. It was the perfect mix between school and hockey,” Bell said. “I didn’t expect it. The letter had been sitting in the mail overnight and whenever we opened it we realized what it was. It was pretty exciting.”

Mansfield finished 8-10 overall and 3-7 in the PSAC conference. Bell believes her talent at both ends can be beneficial to the Mountaineers. According to Bell, participating in club hockey during the offseason made a big difference in her game.

“Before I did club hockey I wasn’t very serious about the sport. Club hockey opened up a new world to me and made me better, so I think both my offense and defense will help Mansfield, hopefully, progress to the postseason next year,” Bell said.

Morgan Foote, former BMS coach, now living in North Carolina, has fond memories of Olivia’s hard work, dedication, and love for the sport.

“Olivia always showed an intense love for field hockey. Each year she showed up at the beginning of the season ready to learn and grow as a player and a teammate. By her junior year, Olivia was able to play any position she was asked. That made her very valuable to our team,” Foote said. “Olivia played hockey for several teams year round which was evident at the start of each season. She came to preseason with new stick skills and moves she’d learned in the offseason. I appreciated her hard work and dedication to the sport.”

The past year was a tumultuous one for BMS. After winning a District 6 Class A championship in 2016 and advancing to the PIAA quarterfinals with only 11 on the roster, the Thunder lost their coach and couldn’t field a complete team in 2017.

The solution? Form a co-op with Huntingdon.

Bearcat coach Chelsea Sarra said the co-op was a success and one of the reasons was the play and attitude of Bell.

“Olivia was a great asset to the team. She’s very coachable. She helps the other athletes as well. She knows what she’s doing,” Sarra said. “You can count on her to take the lead. She was a great addition to our team. She will be a very positive addition to Mansfield.”

Foote knows Bell will have a successful career at Mansfield, both athletically and academically – the reason being Bell’s desire to improve and her solid character.

“I’m extremely proud of the player Olivia has become. While I’m excited about the amount of talent she worked hard to acquire, I’m even more excited about the person field hockey helped her become,” Foote said. “Olivia turned into a great teammate, leader, and she learned what it means to have good sportsmanship. I believe her integrity and character have grown just as much as her physical skills. My hope for Olivia is she continues to grow as a player and person in this new chapter of her field hockey career. I wish her all the best.”

After three years of hockey at Bellville Mennonite and a year with Huntingdon, despite the drastic changes that took place in the past year, she wouldn’t change a thing.

“It was interesting and an experience I wouldn’t switch for anything,” Bell said. “Playing hockey was the best experience ever. I have the best teammates. I couldn’t have imagined it turning out any other way. I had a great time.”