Bella Bixby might have been listed as the Portland Thorns’ third string goalkeeper but that all changed on June 27, 2020.
The former Oregon State soccer goalkeeper made her Thorns debut as starting goalkeeper in Portland’s first game of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup currently in Utah.
In her first start with the Thorns, Bixby made four (impeccable) saves against the North Carolina Courage. However, the team lost 2-1.
Listed as a third string means a lot of waiting and waiting and waiting for your name to be called. That time passed along with a little nerves of your first professional start would be reason enough to knock any athlete off their game.
How did she manage to stay ready and stay in the moment?
Well, having teammates such as Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair shoot rockets at you during practice might have had something to do with it…
I’ve been third string for the last two years but basically being in goal as target practice for some of the best players in the world the last two years – Lindsey Horan, Christine St. Clair, Tobin Heath – shooting on me for the last two years. I felt very prepared. – Bella Bixby
Going up against the best brings out the best in you. It’s an iron sharpens iron philosophy that worked in Bixby’s favor.
But when it came down to the game itself, Bixby relied on herself and the support from her teammates.
I was mostly just focused on making simple decisions, very clear decisions to not put my teammates in any danger and just playing my game because at the end of the day, I’m a goalkeeper. I’ve been playing this position for a really long time. The staff and my teammates obviously felt that I was ready for this… – Bella Bixby
The 24-year-old goalkeeper from Milwaukee, Oregon spent her collegiate career at Oregon State (2014-2017)and set the Oregon State career record with 394 saves, the third-highest total in Pac-12 history. She played 72 career games, holding 18 clean sheets.
Bixby was selected by the Thorns in the third round of the 2018 NWSL Draft.
The Thorns will face NW rival OL Reign on Monday, July 13.