Webb of Possibilities: Bella Webb signs with Bethel, prepares to join National Guard

“It's good to push myself for four years of college,” Bella Webb said. “It's better to be doing a lot than nothing.”

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Bella Webb, left, shakes hands with Staff Sgt. Parker Donley after being sworn into the National Guard on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, in Fargo, N.D.

BEMIDJI – College hockey isn’t for the faint of heart. But to combine a collegiate commitment for such a physical sport with a military enlistment requires a certain kind of determination.

That’s exactly what Bella Webb has signed up for at Bethel University in St. Paul. The Bemidji High School senior recently signed her National Letter of Intent to join the Royals’ women’s hockey team, and the next day, she was officially sworn into the National Guard’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

“I have a couple of classes a week and workouts in the mornings,” Webb said. “And after those four years, I'll earn a minor in military science. I'll graduate from the program and become an officer in the National Guard.”

Webb, a girls hockey captain who played center with the Lumberjacks, said Bethel’s religious background dovetailed with the appeal of its campus and hockey program.

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Bemidji senior Bella Webb (10) puts the puck past Alexandria goaltender Hunter Sellnow (31) to score during the first period on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“A big part of it is they're a Christian college, and that was something that I really was looking for,” Webb said. “Also, when I toured their campus, I just fell in love with it right away. And I just knew that's where I wanted to go play college hockey.”


As a Division III program, Bethel cannot offer hockey-specific scholarships, but Webb will combine her athletic prowess with her National Guard training to help fund her degree path.

“You can't technically get a hockey scholarship,” Webb said. “They can call it an incoming freshman athlete scholarship, but not specifically a hockey scholarship. … (The National Guard), they pay for all of my schooling. Basically, it's a job when I'm in school, so I won't have to get another job because they'll be paying me when I go for my weekend (training). … It's a big thing to come out of college debt free for me.”

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Bemidji senior Bella Webb (10) moves the puck during the first period against Thief River Falls on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Beyond military service, Webb hopes to pursue a career in a field that often works with athletes.

“My major is biokinetics,” she said. “So I want to get my four-year degree with that, and then hopefully become a physical therapist.”

Webb was a dual-sport athlete at BHS, participating in soccer as well as hockey. Ultimately, hockey is her truest passion, and one she’s excited to pursue at the next level.

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Bemidji senior Bella Webb (10) controls the ball in the first half against Cloquet/Carlton on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“I went to one of the Bethel games in December,” Webb said. “I met a couple of their players, talked to all their coaches. And it was just a really good environment. And I really liked their rink as well.”

She leaves behind a stronger foundation at the high school level. Bemidji girls hockey went 13-8-4 this past season, garnering its first winning record in 10 years.

A wave of youthful talent blended well with seniors like Webb who had invested in the program for several seasons. The payoff was rewarding, and Webb has high hopes for her understudies as they move forward.


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Bemidji senior Bella Webb (10) reaches for the puck during the second period against East Grand Forks on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at the Bemidji Community Arena.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“I'm really proud of our team and everything we accomplished this year,” Webb said. “We really turned the program around this year and got a lot of media attention as well. And I think the team in the following years will really succeed. The future is going to be great for them. If they keep improving at the rate they're improving and show great leadership, they'll have a good chance at a section title in the following years.”

As she prepares to move on to collegiate competition, Webb is clear-eyed about how frenzied her post-secondary experience will be, and she’s ready to take on a new adventure.

“It's good to push myself for four years of college,” Webb said. “It's better to be doing a lot than nothing.”

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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