Playing with heart

Pell City rising senior Harper Bell scored the North squad’s only goal in the North-South All-Star Girls Soccer Match on Wednesday in Montgomery.

Pell City rising senior centerback Harper Bell represented her school in the North-South All-Star girls soccer match at the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex in Montgomery on Wednesday.

Although the North squad fell to the South 3-1, Bell scored her team’s lone goal at 59:33 in the contest, a feat that helped earn her MVP honors for the North.

“It’s a huge honor to be able to represent my school and to get this award,” Bell said. “I just played my heart out and I played for my school. I just wanted to make the North look good. I’ve had a great time at this event. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Playing as a defender, she picked up her goal with a header off a corner kick.

Bell is the eighth Lady Panther to be chosen for the all-star match in the past nine years.

“There was a high bar when I got the nomination,” she said. “I knew the previous girls, they’ve come out and shown well … I just wanted to come here and bring that same level (of competition) and just really perform, show out for our school and hope we could pull out a win.

“The South came out with a vengeance. They came out ready to play. They had more subs than us, but I can’t really blame it all on that. We didn’t execute everything that we needed to. They wanted it. We’ll get them next time.”

Pell City head coach Jeff Samoranski said he was proud of Bell’s effort.

“She had a great game,” he said. “The North team only had like two subs, so she had to play the whole game in the heat and humidity. She performed very well. It was great to come out and watch her.”

Bell said her performance in the all-star match will be a source of motivation as the Lady Panthers prepare for the 2020 season.

“We have to come out like the South came out,” she said. “We just have to make sure we’re game-ready. I’m going to try to make sure my team is game-ready, and with this opportunity, just in this one day up here, we really became a sisterhood. 

“I really want to bring that back to my team and make us a little bit closer … I’m going to try to bring back the fact that you have to push through, no matter how hot it is or how many subs you have. You’ve got to control your attitude and effort. That’s all you can do.”

The Lady Panthers had high expectations entering the 2019 season after reaching the Class 6A Final Four in 2017 and the quarterfinals in 2018, but Pell City fell to Gardendale 5-4 in the second round of the playoffs.

“It was very humbling,” Bell said. “We went into that game and we knew Gardendale wasn’t going to give us anything. We knew we had to be at the top of our game. We now know what we have to do and we can’t sit back on our heels. We have to continue to get better because people are always coming for you.”

Samoranski said Bell played a key role in Pell City’s success this past season.

“I know that she scored several goals and was one of the leading scorers on the team,” he said. “We play a three-back system, and she’s the lone centerback. 

“She has great qualities. She’s very aware of everything that’s going on around her and has great field (vision) … She was definitely the leader on the team and showed it in her play, off and on the field. Her being selected for the all-star team was just indicative of her play. I’m very proud of her.”