Freshman Bello leads Wildcats in her first year

Zach Wetzler

Despite being 4-11 on the season, the field hockey team remains optimistic about the future, as the team has seen impressive play from star freshman midfielder Francesca Bello. Bello is one of five players with double digit points recorded and has started seven games this season for the Wildcats. 

Bello is from Flemington, N.J., and attended the Hun Prep School in Princeton. At Hun, she played both varsity field hockey and lacrosse. In field hockey, she was a three-time all conference player and was on the first team for the MAPL league. She also won first team honors from many local newspapers for her hockey ability. In lacrosse she won similar awards, again being recognized by local newspapers and the prep school league of N.J. 

Bello has an intriguing history dating all the way back to her first years. Through high school she was torn between which sport to play, field hockey or lacrosse. Bello actually didn’t start playing field hockey until she was in the eighth grade at Hun. However, she had been playing lacrosse since second grade. Lacrosse was a dream for Bello, something she had always wanted to do in the future. Yet, in high school, lacrosse began to take a back seat to hockey. 

“At the end of my sophomore year, I began to play for the Princeton Field Hockey Club, and that’s when the transition started,” Bello said. “Since then, I’ve just really liked field hockey and have put all my energy into that.” 

In the end, Bello believes she is best at hockey but wishes she could play both lacrosse and hockey. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely as field hockey practices occur five days a week during the off-season. What is certain though, is that she has learned many lessons from both sports. Bello cites “athletic discipline” as the most valuable trait she carried over from the lacrosse field. 

Even as a freshman, Bello certainly feels the pressure of Big East hockey. “I definitely get nervous, I feel like every time I’m out there, I have something to prove,” Bello said. 

She also plays with the mindset that all playing time is earned, and nothing is guaranteed. However, her nerves have certainly not shown so far this season. She has played in 12 games so far this season and is tied for second in goals scored.  In her first start of the season, against Missouri State, Bello notched her first goal in a Wildcat victory.

One way, in which she has overcome this angst is through the atmosphere of the locker room. I love the girls on the team,” Bello stated. “When I came as a high school sophomore, to camp here, I immediately felt like it was a team I could play for.” 

In all team sports, it is often found that team chemistry produces success, and with Bello that is certainly the case. Finally, Bello stated that she has never felt any animosity from upper classmen. Despite only being a freshman, she is respected greatly by her teammates. 

Bello’s skill is not only present on the field, but also in the classroom. In September she was named to the Big East honor roll and has continued to excel in the classroom. 

Bello is certainly an academic, focused not only on field hockey but also education. She was drawn to Villanova not only because of its Division I reputation but also because of its rigorous academics. At times, Bello has felt overwhelmed by the balancing act of academics and athletics, but thanked the school for its continued support of athletes. 

“The school has been very helpful with all of the resources they provide for the athletes,” Bello said. “There is always someone to talk to or someone to go see for tutoring.” 

Despite Villanova’s long losing streak—recently snapped against Georgetown—Bello remained optimistic. She has a lot of faith and optimism for her recruiting class. The Wildcats are fifth in the Big East standings, and despite losing to UConn this past weekend, remain in the thick of playoff contention. On Nov. 1, Villanova will play Providence in what will be a de facto play-in game for the Big East semifinals. Bello sets the ultimate goal as a Big East championship. 

“That’s our main goal right now, that’s what we are pushing towards and putting all of our energy to,” Bello said. “I think over the next four years, this team could definitely be champions.”

Bello is certainly all in on competition and victory. However, when her four years are up she is going to seek something more. Bello hopes to use field hockey as a learning experience and one that releases her of stress. As many athletes do, Bello craves competition, therefore she finds Hockey to be necessary in her life. She is very aware that this form of competition is limited and desires to win every chance she gets. Above all though, the relationships made on the team are most important. 

“I hope to end with a good relationship with all of my teammates and coaches,” she said. “When I’m out on the field, I’m at my happiest and I know the four years will pass by quickly so it is important that I enjoy them.”  

Only time will tell if Bello’s goal is upheld. The pursuit of the Big East crown continues on Friday against the best, a daunting challenge. However, with the always-competitive Bello on the team, the Wildcats definitely have a shot at pulling the upset.