Gill finds way to play major role, on and the off stat sheet
Big scoring numbers have been no stranger to Stratford’s Bella Gill on the soccer field. With 25 goals scored in each of the past two seasons, the recently graduated forward has been a major part of the Eagles’ consecutive berths in the GHSA Class A semifinals.
But there’s more to Gill than merely her physical abilities, according to Stratford head coach Kate Blankenship, who noted that sometimes Gill’s biggest impact didn’t even show up on the stat sheet.
“Her grit. It’s not speed or that she’s unbelievably technical. She has those tools, but I don’t think that’s what makes her above the rest,” Blankenship said about The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Girls Soccer Player of the Year. “It’s that grit and second effort to get off of tackles that maybe other people are not willing to do. She’s going to give 100 percent all the time.”
Gill found multiple ways to put dents in the scoreboard throughout the season as the Eagles posted a 16-1 record. And she didn’t save most of her goals for the big blowouts, either. Gill scored five of the team’s seven playoff goals in a season during which she had three game-winning goals and four game-winning assists.
“She wasn’t our only weapon, which made it better for her. Last year, we probably depended on her more than we had to and more teams focused on her,” Blankenship said. “When they man-marked her this year, she said, ‘Hey, I’m going to use this to my advantage.’ ”
It’s that grit and second effort to get off of tackles that maybe other people are not willing to do. She’s going to give 100 percent all the time.
Stratford head coach Kate Blankenship on Bella Gill
One of Gill’s clutch scores came in the area championship game when Gill made a big play, even if she wasn’t the one who scored the goal in a 1-0 Eagles win. She fought her way through a physical turn of events near the goal to get the ball across to Ellie Peterson for the game-winning goal.
“She goes in with two defenders,” Blankenship said. “A defender goes down, and she almost gets tripped up, and she comes out on the other side and gets that second effort to get that cross off to Ellie Peterson to finish it.”
The assist magnified a major difference in Gill between her junior and senior seasons. While she scored the same number of goals a year ago, her 18 assists this year doubled her total from 2015.
“Assists are a very important part of this game; that’s something I have developed over the years. The glory isn’t always in scoring goals,” Gill said. “It’s huge to be able to have the skill to distribute the ball and see where your teammates are at. You’re not always in the best position to score goals. So being able to see the field and distribute the ball is very important.”
Gill will look to carry that success forward while playing on the collegiate level as she heads to play at West Alabama. Gill’s friends and family won’t have to travel far to see her play as times as the Division II Gulf South Conference includes West Georgia and Valdosta State.
“There’s a lot of things that go into it, and sometimes you get doubtful and think that maybe you can’t do this. And then you realize that you are surrounded by so many people that support you, and that’s when I realized that I could do this,” Gill said. “It’s a dream come true to be able to play at this level.”