Lenoir City High School senior Bella Fricks’ lifelong dream of playing soccer at the collegiate level became a reality Nov. 19 when she signed her letter of intent with the Tennessee Wesleyan University Lady Bulldogs.
“It’s a pretty big deal, it was something I dreamed about since my freshman year,” Fricks said. “Just for it to become a reality even after I had a really serious injury my junior year, it’s just really important to me and special that I actually made my underclassman dream come true.”
Signing with TWU was one of the easiest decisions of her life, she said.
“I went on a college visit in seventh grade to Tennessee Wesleyan with North Middle School, and I fell in love with the campus that day,” she said. “I’ve been saying that I would go there ever since. My spring semester of my freshman year, I decided that I wanted to be a soccer player in college and the first place I thought was there. I’ve been in the recruiting process since the fall of my sophomore year.”
Fricks suffered a severe ankle injury last season that kept her sidelined, but she would not be denied.
“I had an ankle injury just from overworking, and I had to get a complete reconstruction on my right ankle,” she said. “It was really hard on me mentally, not only physically. I just kept my head up and just thought if I could get through to other side, I would be happy, and I was happy.”
Fricks’ passion for the game came at an early age.
“I played soccer the first time when I was 3 years old for one season when I played for AYSO, and then I quit after that,” she said. “When I was in second grade, I kind of got over being a cheerleader, and my mom signed me up for soccer again. Originally, I wasn’t really happy about it because I didn’t like it when I was 3, and then I just stuck with it and I just really loved it and have played it every season since then.”
Since taking over the team two years ago, head coach Elik Pickell leaned on Fricks’ intensity as a building block for the program.
“She’s been a very hard worker, very tough player,” Pickell said. “She was one that has to play positions that she’s never played before out of need for us when she transitioned from an offensive player to a defensive player, really about halfway through her sophomore year and played defense throughout. It was a big transition, but she handled it very well. She’s a tough player.”
Pickell believes Fricks’ offensive background will benefit her as a defensive player at TWU.
“She’s really strong, physically strong,” he said. “She’s fast, faster than people think. Her ability to battle in there in one-versus-one situations really helps her. The biggest thing I can see, especially as it translates to college, is as an outside back, using her speed to get forward. Using that offensive skillset is going to help her moving forward. ... The speed of the game is going to change. With Tennessee Wesleyan’s developmental team, I think that will serve her well, too. They now have a lot of freshmen that are going to be in that role, getting used to that speed. I think it will also help her stay healthy.”
She plans to major in education and Spanish at TWU.
“They have a lot of international students, so there’s a good chance for me to get to understand a lot of cultures better,” Fricks said. “That’s good for me because I want to study Spanish when I grow up and be part of that culture.”