Alta’s leading scorer ready to take on the 2021 seasonAug 18, 2021 02:09PM ● By Ron Bevan
Alta’s Bella Woods gets ready to put a strong kick into the ball during the 2019 season.. (Photo contributed by Bella Woods.)
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
There is a hierarchy in high school soccer. You groom the younger players to be ready to take the place of the seniors as they move out of the program. You learn the program from the seniors. You learn how the team functions and while you may get some playing time here and there, you bide your time until you are a junior or senior and can appear more often in games.
But for Bella Woods, the chance to learn the Alta program was thrust into her lap. And it happened quite early.
Woods was second in the defensive stopper position for Alta during the 2019 campaign. She knew she just had to learn the way Leah Mickelsen played the position and it would be hers the next season. Instead, she was called into duty early when Mickelsen went down in the opening game of the 2019 season against Cedar City.
“Mickelson went down in the first 20 minutes of the game,” Alta coach Mackenzie Hyer said. “We just threw Woods into the game, not knowing if she was totally ready. We kind of threw her to the wolves.”
“I was nervous going into that first game.” Woods said. “I wasn’t planning on playing much so quickly so there were a lot of emotions going through my head.”
Oh well, it is just one game, she thought. Mickelsen will be back for the next one.
Despite being pressed into duty so quickly, Woods still found a way to put the ball into the net as Alta defeated Cedar City 5-1. But that wouldn’t be the first goal for the young sophomore. She would end the season leading the team in scoring.
The injury to Mickelsen turned out to be a season ending torn ACL. Suddenly the first line of defense for the Hawks now rested squarely on the shoulders of the young sophomore. Now Alta needed her to stop up in a big way. And step up she did.
“A lot of times it is easy for a player to go into that first game because they get an adrenaline rush that helps,” Hyer said. “Now we were asking Woods to be a starter and she really grew into her role.”
Woods, now a 16-year-old junior, has always been around soccer. She looked up to her brother Gabriel, just four years older than her, as a role model in the sport. Gabriel also played for Alta’s boys team when he was in high school.
“I remember picking up a soccer ball when I was about two,” Woods said. “It has always been part of my life.”
Starting out in the rec leagues, Woods later graduated to the competition teams, playing first for Sandy area Sparta United before recently becoming a member of Celtic.
Through all of her soccer Woods has been an attacking player, settling into an offensive position where she had opportunity after opportunity to punish the other team by scoring goals. Her eye for the game grew and she began to read how other players would play the game.
This talent caught Hyer’s eye and switched her to the defensive third, placing Woods in the stopper position where she would read the opposition’s attack and try to shut it down early. She also has the green light to vacate the defensive end when she sees scoring positions.
“Woods can see the whole game in front of her playing the position she is in,” Hyer said. “We allow her the freedom to decide if she can attack and still be back for defense.”
Her freedom enabled her to not only help in defense but also tie for the most points in goals and assists.
“I definitely gained confidence as the season went on,” Woods said. “I started understanding how our other players played the game and how my style would fit in. I always had a decent shot and pretty good at passing, so I brought that along with my defense.”
Now Woods is looking to continue her prowess on the field for this season, and teach what she has learned to the younger players in the program. But she, along with the rest of the 2021 edition of Alta girls soccer, have a goal this year to bring another title back home. The Hawks lost in the second round last season. Playing for a program that has already hoisted eight championship banners into the rafters, it was a bitter pill.
“It was hard on us to be knocked out so early,” Woods said “We are working very hard now to try and win it this season. We have been super positive for this year and already working out and running to get us fit for the season.”
To do so is going to take a team effort. Something Woods hopes to help achieve not only through her example, but through the cohesiveness this year’s team has built.
“We are not just teammates but friends,” Woods said. “We do a lot of things together. Yes, we want to win state. But more importantly we want to keep a positive mindset throughout the entire season.”
Hyer is hoping the style of play Woods brings each game and each practice will be the catalyst to securing another title.
“She is a hard worker and a very good teammate,” Hyer said. “She just wants the team to be successful and she is willing to play to make that happen. She has a quiet confidence about her. She understands she can make a difference in a game, but she goes about it without being flashy. It isn’t about her.”