National signing day was the culmination of years of hard work for several Whatcom County girls’ soccer players.
Bellingham High School’s Hattie North spoke for all the athletes when she talked about what it’s like to get this day out of the way.
“It’s pretty crazy because we’ve worked our whole lives for this and signing that way was it and now we’re going on to our next four years,” North said. “It’s definitely a relief to be moving on with what we’re doing but also kind of bittersweet because we’re leaving our whole team.”
North was one of four local players to sign her letter of intent at a back room in a downtown Bellingham Woods Coffee.
With her was Red Raiders’ teammates Mia Hodges, who committed to NCAA Division I Davidson College.
Hodges was the key to the Red Raiders’ midfield last season and also tallied four goals and three assists. Hodges also played central midfield for the Whatcom Rangers, a premier team in the area.
Davidson utilizes a floating midfielder and could be a perfect fit for Hodges, although the cross-country trip back to North Carolina, where her family is originally from, is a big step.
“It’s definitely going to be scary but I’m looking forward to it,” Hodges said. “I think it’ll be a new chapter in my life that I’ll really be able to benefit from.”
While Hodges heads across the country, most Whatcom County athletes chose to stay closer to home, which ended up being a good thing for NCAA Division II’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
All three players that joined Hodges at Woods Coffee on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to sign their letters opted to go to a GNAC school.
North chose Saint Martin’s University, where she will join Ferndale’s Carly Bannerman and her sister, Kelli Bannerman, who will be a junior for the Saints next season.
Carly Bannerman and North are hoping to join forces again as center backs, although North admits she might get moved to outside defender for the Saints, who lost nine seniors this season and are looking for a crop of new talent.
“That’s definitely a bonus,” North said of joining familiar faces. “I just really wanted a small school and it’s far enough where my parents can’t come down and visit every weekend but I can still go home.”
With the Saints, Bannerman and North will be tasked with defending some offensive talents they’ve played with and against the past four years.
Julia DeVere, who also signed her letter at Woods Coffee, committed to GNAC’s Seattle Pacific University.
DeVere scored seven goals for the state champion Squalicum Storm in her final season and is excited to face off against some of her closest friends throughout her college career.
“I literally know the date we’re playing Saint Martin’s,” DeVere said. “It’s going to be so emotional and weird but it’s so cool.”
Similar to forward DeVere, Ferndale’s Jordin Bartel will try to make a name for herself in the GNAC.
Bartel, who played with Bannerman at Ferndale, scored 23 goals in her senior season while leading the Golden Eagles to their best finish in school history.
“It’s going to be really fun to be honest,” Bannerman said of playing against a longtime teammate. “It will be competitive because that’s just who we are but I’m excited to see how we do.”
Hawaii was also a popular destination for Whatcom County athletes. Lynden’s Lexi Smiley, who scored six goals in her final season with the Lions, committed to the University of Hawaii Hilo and Squalicum’s Michelle Saunders, who picked up an NWC-high 19 assists, will play for BYU Hawaii.
“I’m really happy because I’ve been playing soccer since I was 3 and I love Hawaii,” said Smiley, who signed her letter with a pair of Lynden football players. “It’s my favorite place in the world, so it’s just awesome I get to put the two together.”
Both Hawaii Hilo and BYU Hawaii are Division II schools.