Freshman goaltender Wietske Overdijkink first experience in the United States was when she came to Ball State. The freshman has added an element of experience to the team according to head coach Stephanie Bernthal. Photo courtesy of Ball State Athletics
Wietske Overdijkink’s Dutch background brings valuable element to Ball State
The history of field hockey in the Netherlands is vast. According to Expat Holland, the Koninklijke Nederlandse Hockey Bond has more than 250,000 people playing field hockey in the Netherlands. Within this organization, there are more than 300 hockey clubs throughout the Dutch area.
The rich history of the game has found its way 4,000 miles west of northwest Europe to the flatlands of Indiana. Freshman goaltender Wietske Overdijkink has brought her talents from the Netherlands to Ball State, adding another to the Cardinals’ arsenal of young goalies.
The extensive history of field hockey in the Netherlands is a big part of Overdijkink’s upbringing and knowledge about the sport. With just about everyone playing at some point in their lives, the Netherlands is known for being extremely technical and efficient in their play.
“There is a lot more running involved here,” Overdijkink said. “In the Netherlands, we are a lot more technical, so we do a lot more stick work, and here is a lot more running.”
Overdijkink started her field hockey career when she was 6 years old and was raised by two parents who both played club field hockey and a grandfather who played for the national team. With the lack of school field hockey in the Netherlands, she spent many years playing on club teams. Then, Overdijkink decided she wanted something more.
This past summer, Cardinal head coach Stephanie Bernthal called Overdijkink on Skype and hooked her on Ball State.
“Coach Bern said in our Skype conversation about how she wants the team to be all together,” Overdijkink said. “Also, for me to be a goalkeeper to coach everybody. This is a program for me because I could really see myself here.”
Overdijkink’s first time in America was the day she set foot on Ball State’s campus. When she arrived, Muncie welcomed her with blistering heat, but the Midwestern climate was just one challenge Overdijkink faced when coming to the States.
“The first two days I was jet-lagged, and it was so hot,” Overdijkink said. “I only knew like two people, and it was pretty hard. We couldn’t stay on campus back then, so I stayed with a teammate at her house. It was so much fun, and it really helped [me] get to know my teammates before the preseason even started.”
The first two collegiate starts in Overdijkink’s Ball State career were shutout victories over Davidson and Saint Louis in the first week of September. She said this helped give her and the team confidence as the season got underway.
“I think it was nice to get two shutouts,” Overdijkink said. “It’s a team effort, and I obviously couldn’t have done it without my team. Those were two really good games. I learned a lot and took everything to my next games to improve.”
As the season progressed, her confidence rose, and she continued to produce. Before Oct. 10, Overdijkink led the Mid-American Conference in save percentage and average goals against. Although her numbers have cooled off as the season has progressed, Overdijkink set the tone early in the season for the Cardinals.
“It’s kind of a cool thing, but I think that it comes naturally with the type of personality and the hard work she has put forward,” Bernthal said. “I don’t think she is focused at all [on leading the MAC], which is cool.”
Overdijkink adds depth when it comes to goaltending. This is something the Cardinals have struggled with in the past, and she offers a sense of hope for the future of the team. Part of this switch comes from Overdijkink’s presence on the field.
Although Overdijkink said her adrenaline and excitement is through the roof at game time, Bernthal said she handles this rush professionally.
“She is very much controlled in her demeanor,” Bernthal said. “You can see in the game that she just plays. She puts it all out there and does great. I think that she is really smart as a competitor.”
Overdijkink has led the Cardinals to a three-game improvement from 2018 and the four seed in the MAC Tournament. Ball State will play fifth-seeded Longwood Thursday.