Lone Peak midfield sensation Bella Devey has a way of making life pretty miserable for opposing defenders. Her speed alone is tough to deal with, but combine it with a deft first touch, tremendous shiftiness while dribbling and a great soccer IQ, and Devey indeed has the complete package to create anxious moments for defenders over the course of a match.
That was never more apparent than during Lone Peak’s final two games of the season. Between the 6A semifinals and finals, the Knights scored a combined six goals en route to the title and, to the surprise of no one, Devey had a hand in four of them.
Her contributions to those four goals were notably different each time.
In the late 1-0 semifinal win over Layton, it was Devey’s perfectly placed corner kick that led directly to the game winner in the final minute. In the championship, she scored a goal and delivered two assists. The first assist was the result of a commitment to win a header in midfield and redirect it into the path of a teammate. Her lone goal was the product of fighting to win a ball in midfield, sprinting past a defender and then scoring with the simplest of touches past the keeper when many other players would’ve blasted a shot over the crossbar.
Her final assist was the fifth pass in a five-pass sequence that began with a save of Lone Peak’s keeper and a quick transition up field. Twice, Devey could’ve looked for her own shot, but she didn’t, and it was that unselfishness that her coach said played a massive role in Lone Peak’s state championship.
“That’s exactly kind of what our whole mantra was this year, is being selfless,” said Lone Peak coach Shantel Jolley. “To see her, especially in the biggest moments, instead of being like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be the hero,’ to instead be ‘I’m going to find ways for my team to win by helping my teammates score and not just looking for my own’ was a big reason that we dominated in the way that we did.”
Devey did that every game, finishing with 11 goals and 12 assists against one of the toughest schedules in the state, and for her exploits, the junior was been named the 2023 Deseret News Ms. Soccer recipient, the 17th in the history of the award.
Devey said she believes one of her biggest strengths is the ability to impact a game regardless of how well she’s playing individually or how difficult a defense. She’s always thinking throughout a match how to shake things up to be less predictable.
That mental side of her game, along with the technical ability, make her one of the most dangerous attacking players whenever she’s on the field.
“She has always just had this way of creating her own shot too, because it’s hard enough to get a shot off, let alone to be able to create it on your own. And she’s just the shiftiest player I’ve seen, and she’s super smart on how she uses her body and just kind of the fakes she uses to lose her man. She’s one of the smartest players for sure with the ball at her feet,” said Jolley.
And she’s an incredible shot, with Jolley estimating that a third of Devey’s goals the past two years have come from outside the box.
Lone Peak’s coach said that watching the North Carolina commit grow into a leadership role was just as impressive as her on-field exploits.
“Bella is not one that has a booming voice, and she’s not one that’s gonna yell and rah rah the troops, but her ability just to play hard every day is what her teammates followed. To watch her kind of become a leader was probably the most fun this year,” said Jolley.
For many top players, high school soccer is largely a fun experience, while club soccer is typically more intense and pressure filled. Devey said she approaches them both pretty equally, which has no doubt contributed to her success at both levels.
“Both are pretty serious for me, I get the same amount of nerves for a semifinal or final here that I do for important games in ECNL,” said Devey.
She still has another year of club soccer and high school soccer to strengthen her game and sharpen those nerves before taking her talents to college soccer power North Carolina.
Devey said UNC was always her dream school, a big reason she attended a summer camp there a couple of summers ago. She caught the eye of legendary North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance as well as associate head coach Damon Nahas. Devey said it’s still the most fun camp she ever attended.
Despite the desire to attend North Carolina, Devey and her family made sure to explore all her options in the recruiting process for the best fit. When it looked like Florida might be that school this summer as she was almost ready to commit, North Carolina swooped in with an even better offer as the coaching staff absolutely didn’t want to see Devey get away.
“Going through the recruiting process, I wanted to make sure I was making the totally right choice, so I kind of explored as many schools that I really could, so when it ended up coming down to North Carolina anyway, which is like the best case because it was my dream school,” said Devey.
North Carolina’s storied history of winning 22 NCAA championships was certainly appealing for Devey, even though the process hasn’t won it all in 10 years, with three runner-up finishes during that span.
This Friday, Devey will get a chance to see her future team play in her own backyard when BYU hosts North Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinals. She’ll no doubt be watching and counting down the days when she gets to wear the Tar Heel baby blue.