Players distraught with decision

By Todd McMahon

In a span of one day, anticipation turned into disaster for the NIU field hockey team.

Wednesday morning, NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell announced his intention during a meeting with all NIU coaches that he will be recommending to the NIU Athletic Board that the field hockey program be put to rest after this semester.

What makes O’Dell’s decision even harder for coach Laurie Bell’s team to accept is the timing of the decision.

The recommendation will not formally be presented until next Wednesday, when O’Dell meets with the Executive Committee of the Athletic Board. Then the same recommendation will be presented to NIU’s entire Athletic Board on April 15, a little over three weeks before the spring semester ends.

“It was totally handled the wrong way,” said Alice Wassmann, who would have been a junior next season. “He (O’Dell) tells us only a month before the semester is over, and our coaches knew nothing about it until the coaches’ meeting.

“He said they’ll (athletic department) do everything they can to help us out, but there’s not much of a chance to do anything now, as far as transferring.”

O’Dell and Wassmann both said that the players’ scholarships will be honored and they’re free to transfer to other schools if they desire.

But as Wassmann pointed out, “most schools already have their rosters set for next year. The recruiting is done at these schools, so there’s no available spots for any of us.”

Before the sudden announcement, Bell and her staff pretty much had their recruiting completed as well for the upcoming season.

Wassmann said one player had signed and another five or six girls had expressed an interest to sign with NIU.

“Everything was going great for us until this,” said Kristina Hahn, NIU’s leading scorer this past season. “Coach was just wrapping up her recruiting and we were working hard this spring.”

“I was all set to be ready by the fall,” said Wassmann, who sat out last season as a medical redshirt. “I’ve been going through rehabilitation and the other girls were lifting and in spring training.

“We were looking forward to next season, especially being able to play Old Dominion (two-time defending national champion), Penn State and Northwestern.”

In addition to having Hahn and Wassmann on the field together again, Bell also was to have 14 more players back from last year’s 6-11-1 squad. Eleven of those were only freshmen and the other three were sophomores, and all saw considerable playing time.

Bell was set to enter her seventh season as head coach, the most by any NIU field hockey coach in its 17-year history. Bell compiled a 43-52-3 overall mark, highlighted by a 15-3-1 record in 1988.

In its history, the NIU field hockey team was 134-128-22. The Huskies enjoyed national success under coaches Dr. Mary Bell and Cathy Bolger from 1976-79 when they went 42 straight games without a defeat.