Otterbein women's soccer coach Brandon Koons says he often gives lengthy answers when asked to assess a particular player's talent.

"But you can usually tell quickly," Koons said of whether a player has the ability to play at the collegiate level.

In Bella Shivley's case, Koons points to a photo from last September as evidence of one reason why the 2017 DeSales graduate and New Albany resident has been named an All-American each of the past two seasons.

The photo, taken during a 3-all tie against Adrian on Sept. 17, shows Shivley, a junior midfielder, controlling the ball under her right foot as Adrian's Cassidy Conner tries to apply defensive pressure. Shivley was keeping Conner at arm's length to her left as she devised her next move.

"She controls the ball in a way not many players do," Koons said. "She'll keep it under her foot until she draws a player in. Many tend to take that first touch and push it away from themselves. When you see a player take their first touch, you can usually tell within a short period of time who is technically superior and has great vision. Bella has both of those qualities ... and she has great ability and character."

After starting the first 12 matches of her freshman season before being sidelined for eight months with a torn left ACL, Shivley set the program's single-season records for goals and total points each of the past two years.

As a sophomore, she had 16 goals and 40 points and was named third-team All-American, and improved on both statistics last year with 22 goals and 55 points as well as a team-high 60 shots on goal and was second-team All-American.

"I find myself purely having fun more (since the injury)," said Shivley, a three-time second-team all-state honoree at DeSales. "I love the opportunities Otterbein has provided me. This is definitely how I wanted to spend my college career. I realized after my injury how everything could end in an instant. I just felt like I had a different energy after that because I told myself I'd prepared and trained to do this, so I needed to go out and have fun."

Despite her records, Koons recalled that Shivley gave up the chance for a hat trick during a 7-0 win over Manchester on Sept. 17, 2017, instead passing the ball to a teammate.

"I still hear about that," Shivley said, laughing. "People tell me I need to shoot more and score more. I want to give other girls that opportunity and (that game), I felt my instinct take over. I view an assist as even better than scoring because without the assist, there isn't a goal."

Shivley has remained close with former DeSales and Otterbein teammate Haley Hott, a defender who is graduating this spring. The two have formed a mutual support system for years, including after Shivley's injury.

"I was nervous coming back and Haley told me, 'If you tear it again, you did it giving your all. You gave 100 percent,'" Shivley said.

"She's an unbelievably hard worker ... and the most humble person I've ever met. If you give her a compliment, she'll rebound it right back to you," Hott said. "I've seen all she's overcome and she pushes herself and everybody else to compete in a healthy way. She's never had a mindset about getting records. Everything Bella does is for the betterment of the team."

Shivley is majoring in nursing and plans to gain experience in a hospital this summer.

"Part of me wants to be out there right now helping people (during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic) and I plan to be this summer, hopefully," she said. "I'm excited for us to have success as a team (this fall), to win the OAC (Ohio Athletic Conference) and get at least a few rounds into the NCAA tournament. I know there's a lot we can accomplish."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave