Bell signs with the University of Illinois

The BHS senior chose the school over UW and Stanford.

After a lengthy recruiting process, Courtney Bell made it official on Signing Day: She’s a Fighting Illini.

The senior is set to sign a letter of intent today to play soccer for the University of Illinois.

Bell had verbally committed to the school in October after her official visit.

“The coaching staff was the biggest deciding factor,” she said. “I have a lot of respect in their building of the program. I want to win a national championship and I think I can do it there.”

She’ll join a program on the upswing, as the Fighting Illini, under the tutelage of head coach Janet Rayfield, has made the last three NCAA tournaments and are now consistently ranked in the top 10.

And that was Bell’s goal, as she didn’t want to be part of a program that had a storied history, like Rayfield’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina, where she made her name as one of the best in their history.

“She didn’t want to be involved in a program where she would be a cog in a machine,” said her dad, Chris. “She was interested in an up-and-coming program.”

But Bell had to weed them out from the numerous other schools that were interested in her.

Nearly 40 to 50 schools have wanted Bell since her freshman year when she traveled with her select team to the Region 4 tournament in Las Vegas.

Bell, who played for the Spartans in her freshman and sophomore year along with playing select soccer and joining the Northwest National Shamrocks out of Edmonds, decided to leave the team when the travel time became too much.

Being one of the boys helped too.

“High school is not nearly as competitive, so playing club soccer and training with the boys team really helped me out.” she said.

She is also on the Olympic Development Program and was part of the Washington 1988 Girls ODP team that won a national championship in Las Vegas last year, the only team from this state to do so.

She was awarded the adidas Golden Boot for her two-goal performance in the game.

Bell said she won’t feel any pressure as she competes for a starting spot on the squad.

“I’m ready for it,” she said. “I’ve done all I can to prepare myself, so I’ll be ready when it happens.”

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