By Kyle Daubs

Bella Coffey really slid this one past everyone. 

Until finding out that one of her former teammates announced she was playing volleyball 10 minutes away.

It was Ashlyn MacDonald’s decision to play volleyball at Southern Indiana University, it was MacDonald that broke the news about Coffey’s intent to play softball at NCAA Division I Evansville. 

It’s been the best-kept secret since last semester. 

“It was around Christmas time and we went on a visit to Evansville, so I transferred the spring semester,” said Coffey. “It all happened really fast.”

In 2019 as a freshman, Coffey was named Parkland College’s Defensive Player of the Year after a combined 380 putouts with just one error, and a .997 fielding percentage. Coffey hit .315 for a Cobras team that went 33-22. Her 360 solo putouts also ranked second in the NJCAA Division II level, which gained gained the attention of Evansville. After visiting, it just seemed like a perfect fit. 

“I chose Evansville because it’s a really good academic school,” said Coffey. “It’s a pretty great fit for me. It has a small campus. It gave me an opportunity to play Division I softball, which has been my goal all along.”

After a 19-30 season in 2019, Evansville was on the rise in 2020 before the pandemic struck. Before all spring sports were canceled, the team held a 12-11 overall record. 

Coffey, though, broke her hand on the first day of practice. 

Said Coffey: “It was just a routine ball. I twisted my hand the wrong way.”

After the pandemic closed down schools across the country, Coffey was forced to return to Mattoon; however, that might not have been the worst move for her at the time, she remembers. 

“I couldn’t play, I transferred to a new school, had a new team, and new coaching staff,” said Coffey. “School was way harder than what I was used to. I just realized everything happens for a reason. Honestly, coming home to rehab made me strong. It gave me a break from the stress of the injury and school. It gave me some time to breathe and settle in.”

All in all, combining the injury and the pandemic, it turns out that Coffey’s decision was even more special in terms of timing. 

“Looking back, if I would have stayed at Parkland and got injured, I don’t think I would have received the looks I did,” said Coffey. “Then, with COVID, I really would not have received the looks. I’m really happy about making the decision at the time. It’s just a perfect fit for me with my teammates and coaches.”

Last season, the season for Evansville was called off just before the team was going to play their first game in the Missouri Valley Conference. According to Coffey, the team is hopeful to make a run for the top spots in the conference. 

“What really motivates me is that my teammates really want to win a championship,” said Coffey. “I always remind myself of how many people have affected my softball career. I don’t want to let them down. I have put way too much time and effort into my softball career since I started playing at 10 years old. I just have to keep pushing myself for this. We have worked way too hard for this to go to waste.”